A Company 133rd Armored Ordnance Battalion
Edited by Bert Virag and Andrew Tocimak
To Captain Willard N. Rayburn, our commanding officer, for his democratic attitude toward his men, his patience, understanding, and exemplary leadership, this book is respectfully dedicated.
Captain Rayburn entered
the military service during the first World War. At that time he was in the Air
Corp, and after attending Officers Candidate School he was discharged in
December of 1918. He then re-entered Iowa State College to complete his studies.
In August of 1942 Captain Rayburn again entered the military service at Stockton
Ordnance Base, Stockton, California and was transferred to Pomona Ordnance Base,
Pomona, California with the duties as Shop Officer and Operations Officer. He
joined the 11th Armored Division at Camp Ibis, California and was assigned to
Headquarters Company, 133rd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion as Parts Officer. It
wasn't until the Division was at Camp Cooke that he was transferred to
"A" Company and took up the duties of Shop Officer and Executive
Officer. In Warminster Barracks, England, December 11, 1944, Captain Rayburn
assumed command of "A" Company. Practically his entire business career
has been spent in the Automobile business, the last 17 years of which was spent
with Ford at Long Beach, California.
AWARD OF MERITORIOUS
SERVICE UNIT PLAQUE
Under the provisions of Ar 600-45, as amended, and in accordance with the authority contained in Circular No. 6, Hq Third United States Army, 26 April 1944, the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque is awarded to the following unit:
COMPANY A, 133RD ARMORED ORDNANCE MAINTENANCE BATTALION, 11th ARMORED DIVISION, UNITED STATES ARMY — 23 November 1944 to 23 January 1945.
During the period the
company performed exceptionally difficult tasks in a superior manner. By
resourcefulness and initiative, members of the company succeeded in repairing,
modifying and reclaiming large quantities of vital materiel, enabling the using
combat elements to continue at maximum efficiency. The support given by the
company proved of inestimate value in the preparation for combat and success of
the division. The achievement and maintenance of a high standard of discipline
is evidenced by superior military courtesy and appearance of personnel and
installations and by the company's record during the period of no cases of
venereal disease, no punishments under AW 104, no convictions by Courts Martial
and no unauthorized loss of time for any reason whatsoever.
TO : Commanding Officer, Company "A", 133 rd Ord Maint Bn 11th Armored Division.
1. During the period which Company "A", 133 rd Ord Maint Bn has been attached to Combat Command "A", the performances of higher echelon and maintenance has been superior.
2. I note with pride the manner of performance in maintenance established by personnel of your command. The willing and never failing "ESPRIT DE CORPS" shown by your organization in maintaining the vehicles of this command through the most adverse of weather and combat conditions has never been excelled.
3. In the rapid advance
of the command across Germany your organization has displayed a true meaning of
the slogan, "KEEP THEM ROLLING". This devotion to duty and untiring
effort displayed by members of your organization has played a great role in the
combat efficiency of the command.
The purpose of the maintenance battalion is to maintain trucks, tanks, etc., for the entire Division. However the vehicles belonging to “A" Company also had to be attended to. This was the job of Company Maintenance.
Company Maintenance performs first and second echelon maintenance on all of our company's vehicles This consists of tire and wheel repair, lubrication and painting, plus all necessary mechanical repairs It is also their job to keep a record of and control the dispatching of our vehicles. The section must see that there is an adequate supply of gasoline and lubricants for all our vehicles as well as other vehicles that are in our area for repair.
While in the field, the Company Maintenance truck and trailer is placed in the area so that it is accessible to all company vehicles and yet does not interfere with the actual maintenance work being done. In convoy, Company Maintenance trucks follow at the rear of the last serial, to take care of minor repairs and any breakdown en route. Such breakdowns as tire and wheel repair, carburation difficulties, fan belt, water pump, ignition points and such were repaired on the spot. Those breakdowns which were of a more serious nature were towed in by a recovery unit.
The kitchen and its crew also is a very important part of Company Maintenance. It is made up of two 2 1/2 ton trucks, one for carrying rations and kitchen personnel, the second for carrying field ranges and other cooking equipment. The decontaminator also is part of the kitchen. It carries water for drinking purposes as well as cooking. Upon entering a new bivouac area, a fairly level spot with plenty of natural camouflage on somewhat high ground must be found. When no housing facilities are available the kitchen must operate entirely from its two vehicles. The kitchen crew operates two shifts of 24 hours per shift, with three cooks working each shift. Because of the obvious importance of the company's health, the highest standards of sanitation must prevail. The kitchen is inspected daily by the Mess Officer and weekly by the Battalion Medical Officer.
Throughout combat it
was not always possible to obtain rations with the ease which they were gotten
under normal conditions. It was necessary at times for the cooks to prepare food
that had been confiscated from captured enemy warehouses. Very often it was
necessary for us to move at such time as to interfere with normal meal-time.
Thanks to our kitchen staff there was always a hot meal ready immediately upon
arriving at our new area. This meal had been cooked while the trucks were
rolling At no time did the men of "A" Company go hungry.
Platoon Headquarters was originated at Camp Barkeley, Texas, when the Table of Organization for Armored Divisions was changed. It was on desert maneuvers that we first operated under the new set up.
The platoon is made up of both automotive and tank sections, which operate as a base shop within the company. There are five vehicles in the platoon, which are with the company most of the time. There is an electrical repair truck, Automotive Load A, Automotive Load B, one 2 1/2 ton personnel carrier, one 3/4 ton weapon's carrier and one 1/4 ton general purpose vehicle.
The electrical repair truck has most of the necessary equipment for testing all types of electrical accessories used on army vehicles. During combat, the men working in this truck repaired many starters and generators, and turned them over to our supply section for reissue. This kept many of the vehicles on the road as new parts were very hard to get.
Automotive Load A truck is equipped with the necessary appliances for doing motor tune-up and carburetor repair. It also has a machine for refacing and grinding valves. Like the electrical truck, the men working in this truck aided the supply system by repairing carburetors and brake cylinders for reissue.
The Automotive B truck is equipped with an arc welding machine an acetylene welding apparatus, a brake relining machine, equipment for repairing radiators and body repairing. The men working in this truck were kept busy repairing vehicles that had been damaged by enemy action.
The 2 1/2 ton truck was used to carry some of the platoon's personnel and most of the equipment. It was also used to gather confiscated equipment. The 3/4 ton truck was equipped for emergency repair, but it was seldom used for such purpose. No platoon set up would be complete without a 1/4 ton peep. This peep was seldom with the platoon, because it was used for liaison work.
Most of the work done
in the platoon was 3rd and 4th echelon. As a company base shop, the platoon
received work sent back by the 1st and 2nd Maintenance platoons who were serving
as contact parties.
FIRST MAINTENANCE PLATOON
The First Maintenance Platoon was put on the T/O at Camp Barkeley, Texas, in September 1943. However, the platoon did not actually materialize until the latter part of November. The platoon consists of eighteen men, including a section leader and an assistant section leader It was formed to operate as a contact party with separate units. They made minor repairs on the spot, sending back to the company only those vehicles which they were unable to repair. The statement "soup to nuts" applies to the men in this platoon. They must be able to do anything from tightening nuts to replacing engines in both wheeled and track vehicles.
While stationed at Camp Cooke, Calif., the platoon worked with the company, since all the units were close by. In England their job was to prepare the vehicles of the division for combat. This section assembled the vehicles from motor pools scattered all over England.
The platoon landed at Cherbourg; France with the company and remained with them for one day only. They were sent ahead as a contact party supporting the 42nd Tank Bn. on their move to the front After six days working in the mud and cold, the platoon was ordered to rejoin the company again, at Soisson, France. Here the men spent their first Christmas outside of the United States. The company moved out the day after Christmas but the 1st Maintenance remained to finish up the work that had not been completed.
While at St. Vincent, Belgium, the platoon was again ordered to leave the company. This time they assisted C Company for three days, and rejoined the company at Marbehan, Belgium. That was the last time that the platoon was sent out as a contact party.
A number of times the
platoon was left behind to finish up the work because the company had been
ordered to move out. Some of these instances were pretty dangerous, since' the
platoon had to move alone and without protection. The section leader had the
cooperation of the whole platoon at all times. Even though they were hindered by
such hazards as mud, snow and freezing weather, the 1st Maint. Pl. always got
their work out on time.
SECOND MAINTENANCE PLATOON
When the critical drives started toward the Rhine, higher command felt the necessity of a detachment of ordnance men to travel with the spearheading combat command.
We, the Second Maintenance Platoon, were assigned to support this spearhead. Our job was to travel in their column and repair their vehicles if and when they fell out because of mechanical failure. And to evacuate those that couldn't be repaired in a short time, back to the company.
Our vehicles consisted of one peep, one 3/4 ton that contained tools and a crew of men, one 2 1/2 ton truck and tool trailer, one halftrack which contained parts, a welding trailer, and one wrecker for evacuation and lifting and replacing heavy units.
Our 2 1/2 ton cargo truck was our home most of the time. This we built up with some planking and canvas; installed lights and a stove and also racks to hold our personal belongings. This truck was often a life saver from the bitter cold.
Our first experience came one morning while we were waiting for CCA to assemble. We were all sitting in our truck waiting orders when all at once there was a piercing explosion which wrecked our truck and threw us all in a heap on the floor. Minutes later, dazed and dumbfounded we picked our way out of a dusty, dark tangle of boards and buddies. One of the wrecker crew was thrown away from the truck and two beams from an adjoining house that had been leveled, pinned him down. Fortunately none of us were seriously hurt but for hours after we were rubbing our bruises. It was all caused by a medium tank that pulled to the side of the road to let a truck go by. The tank set off a stack of anti-tank mines by the side of the road.
The platoon was getting ready for supper one evening when a crew was hurriedly sent to put a transfer case in a G. M. C. loaded with four tons of 105 MM ammunition. With the 3/4 ton we left. As we started to work, the mortar shells started dropping. Every time one would drop, we would work faster. It isn't known how long it took, but it must have been record time for putting in a transfer case.
The above actual combat
experiences serve to show only a few of the hazards under which the Second
Maintenance Platoon worked while they were the Contact Party. This, plus the
adverse weather, played its part in making the work more difficult. Despite all
this it can be said with pride that whenever there was a job to be done, no
matter how great the personal danger, the Second Maintenance Platoon did the job
when it was needed, and did it right.
The Service Section has been in existence since the activation of the 11th Armored Division Maintenance Battalion at Camp Polk, La. in September of 1942. At that time it was known as a Service Platoon and consisted of about thirty men who were broken down into eight sections: welding, machinist, carpenter, instrument, artillery, small arms, stove repair, and the paint shop sections. Each section had one man in charge who was responsible to a service platoon leader. This procedure operated through the La. maneuvers and in the company's short stay at Camp Barkeley, Texas.
When the new and present "T O" was introduced in September of 1943, the service platoon was done away with and the present Service Section was organized. The section as it now stands has ten men and embraces the following one blacksmith, two welders, three machinists, one carpenter, one canvas and leather worker and one work order clerk.
The duties of the welders and blacksmith overlap somewhat. Their work basically is to repair broken or cracked metal objects by means of electric arc or oxy-acetylene welding. To do this they must be familiar with the physical properties of cast iron, steel, aluminum and bronze, as well as the proper fluxes and heats required to weld, braze and solder. They should have knowledge of the various methods of shaping heated metal This work is done from a "Tech" truck which is set up with all the necessary equipment for performing these duties., The same truck served as living quarters during combat.
The machinist also did
their work in a "Tech" truck. This truck was equipped with two lathes,
a drill press, milling machine, and all the necessary accessories for these
machines, plus hand tools. With this equipment their job was to make metal parts
and tools out of rough stock, all this to close tolerance. They must be able to
work a variety of metals such as wrought iron, brass and aluminum.
RECLAMATI0N AND EVACUATION PLATOON
The Evacuation and Reclamation Section was officially started at Camp Cooke, California. It is a section composed of motor inspectors, tank and halftrack mechanics, wrecker operators, instrument repairmen, small arms men and welders. There are two or three men from each section of the company in this platoon. The purpose of this platoon in the maintenance setup is to retrieve knocked-out vehicles, while under fire, from the battlefield. Also to bring up new vehicles and supplies for processing and then distribution to the using arm. The reason for having a variety of specialists in this section is for the purpose of determining on the spot the degree of damage to a vehicle and to make repairs on the spot if possible, so that it can be used against the enemy again with the minimum of delay. If necessary to evacuate the vehicles to either the company for more extensive repairs, or to a base shop.
The Evacuation and Reclamation Platoon has three M-25 Prime Movers and three wreckers. Each prime mover has a four man crew and is used primarily for hauling tanks as well as other heavy supplies. It was only periodically that the men of the "big rigs" saw their company during combat, because their job of running heavy freight kept them on the road most of the time. Except during the thaws when the roads were almost impassible, then these heavy rigs were forced to stop running so that the roads could be used for hauling food and lighter freight.
The wreckers have crews of three men each and are used for towing and hoisting. At all times at least one of the wreckers was with the company to be used for lifting heavy crates and to assist the maintenance platoons in "pulling engines", etc. They were also used for towing our own vehicles if and when a breakdown occurred while in convoy. One of these wreckers, with our contact party, was assigned to follow the 42nd Tank Battalion in its march through France.
The Evacuation Section
is known as "the rugged boys" of "A" Company. Their
harrowing experiences on the road and the fine way in which they always came
through makes them a credit to the high standards of "A Company”.
The Supply Section of an Armored Division has a very important role to play to keep the vehicles rolling. We not only supply parts for armored and wheeled vehicles, but also the necessary fire control instruments, artillery and small arms parts and equipment.
Prior to the Louisiana maneuvers the Supply Section was divided into company sections from the original Battalion basis. Our section consists of eleven men, six - two and one half ton trucks with one ton trailers attached. With the vehicles allotted it was necessary for us to carry as complete a load as possible to service one of the Combat Commands. Three of the trucks were to hold bins for the smaller parts and the remaining three to carry the heavier or cargo parts. Each man of the section had his own important job. Usually two men took care of the bin trucks. It was their responsibility to order, receive and issue parts. An active inventory was kept of all incoming and outgoing material.
Before leaving the States we were issued what was called 'a Combat load — — enough to supply a Combat Command. After a few weeks of operation it was found that such a load would not meet our requirements. Our load was increased by the addition of two vehicles. Loads consisted of items from the smallest bolt and nut, up to, and including, major assemblies such as engines and power trains for tanks.
A requisition clerk and typist were necessary to keep the records and to order the necessary material. One of the one ton trailers was rebuilt to serve as an office. A section leader and assistant were appointed to supervise and control the section so that all units serviced would get the needed parts with the least amount of delay. The quicker we could supply a part, the sooner a combat vehicle could be put into action against the enemy.
Our source of supply was Division Parts Issue (Headquarters Company of the Ordnance Battalion). Each and every day it was necessary to send trucks to the supply point for parts. This trip of from 35 to 60 miles was often hazardous because of the enemy pockets behind the spearhead. At night the blackout drive was doubly dangerous. When enemy rear action was heavy an armored convoy consisting of trucks and tanks would make the march.
Another source of critical parts was vehicles damaged beyond repair. A crew made up of men from each section would go out into the field and cannibalize vehicles, stripping them of every usable and repairable part. These parts would then be cleaned, repaired, and checked in our own shops before they were placed into our stock for reissue.
The Supply Section is
justifiably proud of the part it has played in keeping the Thunderbolts rolling
on to victory.
The duty of the Small Arms Section is to maintain and repair all types of hand and shoulder weapons, machine and sub-machine guns. All guns must be visually inspected and manually operated to check for malfunctioning of such elements as bolt action, trigger tension, riffing in gun barrel, firing mechanism, ejectors, ammunition feed mechanisms, and extractors. They must be able to disassemble, repair, and replace worn and defective parts of such weapons as pistols, revolvers, rifles, carbines, riot guns, sub-machine guns and 30 and 50 caliber machine guns. They reassemble weapons, lubricate, machine, grind, and make precision adjustments of all parts to secure required clearance and tolerances. Then test repaired weapons by simulated or actual firing. Every Small Arms man must be able to fabricate simple replacement parts with the hand tools issued, and be thoroughly familiar with the construction and operating features of all types of small arms weapons including nomenclature of replacement parts.
Our operation in the field brought up many problems which after joint cooperation were overcome. Our "Tech" truck, "Ay Peyak", was used as both work shop and home. At times it was a little crowded trying to give 13 men elbow room for working Our stay in Bastogne relieved the pressure on "Ay Peyak" when we acquired a room in a shell torn building. It was there we received our first disabled Tanks. Crews were picked to work on the tanks, removing and repairing the weapons. The boys in the shop were busy processing new guns for replacements when and where needed. I' was sometimes necessary to send out men to salvage parts off of knocked out tanks; parts which were needed on the spot with no time for requisitioning. The guns being repaired, ammunition was our next step. It had to be checked, the bad being replaced, and all shortages made up.
Our stay in Audrange brought us more M-1 rifles than we cared to count. Coming off of a muddy battle field exposed to the elements, they were in a sorry shape. Our job was to get them back into battle condition so that they could speed bullets on the way to their targets once again
When moving into a town our job was to collect all the small arms left by the Jerries and those owned by the civilians. Suhl proved to be an arsenal, truck load after truck load was disposed of; everything from elephant guns down to air rifles.
Our job sometimes carried on until the wee hours of the morning but when a tank went out you knew the gunners need fear no enemy, their guns were in tip top shape and amply supplied with ammunition. It was common place to be awakened at two in the morning to process tanks which were to go to the front in a few hours, tanks which meant trouble for the enemy and a speedier victory for us. Aside from all this, our own security guard guns had to be ready for any emergency which may have arisen.
Our supply of stock parts furnished the armorers of the line outfits with parts. What we didn't have, was promptly requisitioned for him.
In any and all
Commendations "A" Company has earned by hard work, the Small Arms
Section can hold its head high for the men of this section have played no small
part in making "A" Company the fine organization it is.
Artillery traditionally has a very high place in the U. S. Army. Thus the Artillery section of the Maintenance Battalion was assigned a number of high ratings in order to assure work of a fine caliber. Men of all rating categories have the same Military Occupation Serial Number, 913. The official description of this is as follows: Artillery Mechanic Light: Maintains and makes major repairs on light artillery, such as repairing and replacing defective assemblies of breech lock and firing mechanisms, recoil and counterrecoil, and shock absorbing devices, and traversing and elevating equipments performs relative duties as required.
A departure from original intention was in not using the crew system for organizing the work of the section. It was found that for this particular work a more flexible method was needed which called for participation by the whole section at times. As a matter of fact the Artillery section was like a large family, each man pitching in wholeheartedly without regard to any set crew arrangements.
The work of the Artillery Section could be divided into five main groups: 1. Repairs, 2. Modifications, 3. Periodic preventive inspections, 4. Processing, 5. Gun demolition.
Making repairs of combat-caused damages and those from ordinary usage was quite naturally the chief function of the group. Sometimes the injuries were so serious that an entire gun was removed and replaced. Torn conduits for the stabilizer or traversing mechanisms, partially exploded ammunition in the storing compartments, or any part of the gun put out of action by shell fragments were frequently dealt with, especially when the unit was in and around Bastogne. Some tanks were knocked out beyond repair and were "cannibalized", or used for replacement of parts. From them were stripped tubing, elevation racks, stabilizers, locks, spare parts and whatever else was both serviceable and in demand for use in other tanks.
A second important function was the making of modifications. During the time at Camp Cooke, Calif., this occupied most of the section's schedule. There, three important changes on M4A3 tanks were accomplished. The dual gyro was simplified, and converted into a mono-gyro which now steadied the gun in elevation only. Second, the assistant gunner of the M4A3 had always been trapped in the eventuality of some emergency which made necessary a quick getaway. The gun guard of the 75 mm blocked his way to the only exit. This situation was remedied by a second modification, which called for hinging of the gun guard so that its obstructing half could be easily folded back, allowing ample room for escape. The third modification was the installation of an azimuth indicator for each Sherman tank which operated directly from the turret ring and which provided accurate information at a glance of deflection from the tank front.
About the time that combat in the ETO was drawing to a close, the section was busy installing muzzle breaks on 76 mm guns. These muzzle breaks served to lessen the recoil of the gun. In doing this job it was necessary to attach a balancing weight to the breech end, which brought the problem, where could approximately one ton of correctly shaped iron be found? Hermann Goring gave the answer. For south of Linz was the huge Hermann Goring Tank Works, which when explored proved to be a "find", having just exactly the type and quantity of metal desired.
Periodic preventive inspections were generally carried out at the location of the inspected battalion. Due to the extreme cold conditions under which these checks were often made, and the delicate parts of the stabilizers being worked with, it was frequently necessary to have the Tech truck close at hand. When at times the inspection was carried out by request of the using arm for examination of a few suspected units, generally a peep and a small crew would be dispatched. The main items inspected were hydro-pneumatic recoil mechanisms of 105’s, forcing cones, bores, stabilizers, traversing mechanisms, switches, and electrical firing controls.
A fourth function was the work of processing the gun systems of new tanks, readying them for combat. Tanks were brought in by prime movers from rear areas, cosmolined or heavily greased, for rust protection while on the way. It was the Artillery Sections job to remove this grease from the breech mechanisms and tube, oil and check all artillery equipment for perfect working order, and then load ammunition. When released, a tank was fully ready to go into combat.
During the sprint through Germany of the spearheading 11th Armored Division, it was sometimes necessary to leave disabled tanks behind for infantry to take over when they reached the area. The guns ot these tanks had to be rendered out of action so that fanatical civilians in the meantime couldn't use them. This was done by removal of essential parts from the breech.
Artillery in this as in
other wars has played a large part in securing the final victory. While men of
the Maintenance Platoons have "kept 'em rolling", those in the
Artillery Section have seen to it that a combat-ready gun or howitzer was well
installed in whatever rolled as their contribution to the total effort of A
INSTRUMENT REPAIR SECTION
The duty of the Instrument Repair Section is to repair and maintain all types of fire control instruments such as range finders, aiming circles, telescopes, binoculars and any other optical devices used by the army. An instrument repairman must have a knowledge of the theory of light so that he may apply it to optics. He must be able to completely dissemble and clean instruments, repair broken or defective mechanical or optical parts, and cement all types of lenses. He must know how to operate a small lathe so as to manufacture small parts, and must be able to refit or accurately adjust multiple types of level vials in the instruments requiring them. Periodically, he must go out to the various artillery and tank battalions in his division for the purpose of inspections, making minor repairs on the spot and sending the most serious ones back to his section where more careful and delicate work may be done.
Enemy instruments play a major part in the knowledge of the instrument repairman as well as his own. It is very often practical to modify an enemy instrument and send it out to be used against him. Two excellent examples of this are the German Panoramic Sight and Aiming Circle, which with a few minor modifications and a coat of olive drab paint are quite similar to the American types.
Because instrument work deals with the handling of small parts and the necessary exposure to the air of powerful lenses, there is a distinct and immediately apparent difference between combat and non-combat work. A major difficulty in combat work is the continual disturbance of dust-laden air due to field conditions. This is overcome somewhat by the Technical Truck, a work shop on wheels in which the instrument men do their work. Still it doesn't eliminate the problem of dust completely, extreme care and a great deal more patience than usual is required.
In each instrument section is a watchmaker. It is his duty to repair, replace and maintain the watches of all the units which are serviced by his company. In his spare time if he desires, he may repair the personal watches of the men. Although this is non-military work, it must be included because, since civilian jewelers aren't available in the field, the repair of personal watches is considered a moral booster. The watchmaker must also repair dash board instruments such as speedometers and tachometers.
The Instrument Repair
Section, because of the delicate nature of their work, of a necessity must be a
well-knit unit. Not only does each man know his own job, but with the exception
of the watchmaker, each man knows the job of every other man, from the section
leader down. Thus it is, that cooperation is the basis upon which instrument
repair work is founded.
A COMPANY GOES TO WAR
It's 3 AM at the Warminster railroad station. Waiting in ranks you could do no more than shudder in the cold and wonder what's up. What rumors should you believe? Some say things aren't going well in Belgium, that you'd be used to plug a hole there. Frankly, that sort of news is disconcerting, for you expect to ride in on the tail end of the war — — it's to be a joy ride to Berlin. These vague rumors about the Belgian fight give you an uneasy feeling in the region of your bay window. But then again no one really hears the news first hand. What the hell, it's probably a lot of eyewash like a hundred other choice bits of information you get daily.
You'll remember this evening even fifty years from now when you'll be a grandpa in Minnesota swearing that in all the thirty years of your army career never was there a night like this. Your back is wet with sweat from carrying heavy packs of equipment, while your toes freeze. All around is dense English blackout, while crisscrossing commands seem to whip from least expected directions.
Only four hours ago you'd been drinking that lousy PX beer, but it seemed like you'd been marching for an age on the way to the station. You sweated, cursed, struggled on icy, slippery, surface and now you're tickled pink that the damn thing is over.
Of course they can't keep you out in the cold forever. Finally the train comes, and they open the doors so you can go in and give your achin' back a much needed rest. The train takes off and no sooner do you get your harness, pack, duffel bag, weapon put away then you find that the train is at the Southampton docks and you've got to put all the equipment back on again.
During the night you board a transport, You stumble down to the hole some English sailor directs you to and before you get half your equipment in order you're sound asleep.
The following night the ship is still anchored and seems more like some gambling yacht off Santa Monica than a troop carrier.
Another ship is parallel to yours and its decks are also filled to overflowing with uniformed men. Hollywood couldn't afford to pay so many extras as in this mob scene. Two giant spotlights suspended from the ships' crosses blast streams of incandescence, throwing everything into sharp lights and shadows.
Loudspeakers are planted all over and blare "Dark Eyes", while crowds mill along the decks occasionally stopping here and there to satisfy some curiosity. At the rails they yell across for buddies, "Hey, is Sam Rabinowitz in youse guys outfit?"
One GI amuses a circle of audience by madly conducting "Dark Eyes" until a pal grabs him just as he reaches some ridiculous position and leads him in a furious jitterbugging exhibition. Men on the other ship are attracted to the sideshow and laugh too. "What the hell, have a big time now, for-tomorrow, who knows?"
Downstairs in the compartments big games are going on. One game is getting too big even for the lanky First Sergeant of A Company. He has one foot on the table, big cigar one side of his mouth, and the same bored statement as though he were about to say, "Company! ten-hut!"
You'd been waiting in the ship for a night and a day already and it seems as though the damned thing is here for good.
At last the transport takes off. You think. But what a mystery this turns out to be. When you get out of bed in the morning you swear the engines were turning over and you were getting sea sick last night. Then when you go out on deck, there's Southampton still to greet your eyes. You walk over to an English sailor. After pumping him for a half hour and finding out nothing you hear the rumor that the ship had sailed last night but while waiting at an advanced rendezvous in heavy seas the anchors loose, and the ship had to come back.
You can't stay at Southampton forever. Soon the tugs drag you away from the docks and you're heading for the channel. The water swishing off the bow sounds like surf at the beach. Small boats zigzag across your line of direction and you watch the gulls yapping at the food remains thrown overboard.
A purple blotch on the horizon becomes more and more distinct. After a while you can see hills with ugly looking welts at all angles across them.
"We’re heading into Cherbourg,” somebody says.
Now you can see a long finger of breakwater stretched out before you. Guarding each side of the opening is a huge red stone fort, the American flag planted on top. Shell holes are ripped through the corners like rat nibblings in a Hershey bar. Skeletons of warehouses, beached LCl's, forests of masts are in contusing masses all around. This is war, you think silently You're coming in when you'd like to be going back to the States.
Those homesick feelings aren't helped any when some GIs on a hospital ship preparing to take off in a U. S. direction, yell, “Go back, go back; you'll be sorry''.
So you're in the Army, in the 11th, in France and with the approximately eighty pounds of equipment, in a helluva mess. Added to this the fact that the German counter attack in Belgium is no rumor but cold hard fact, it makes you feel mighty lonely for the folks back at home
In the next six days all you see is road, bivouac and more road, with the constant sight and smell of death, ruined, rusted tanks, demolished buildings. Falaise is but an empty word, no more. Perhaps a church wall remains. The kids playing in the rubble of bricks and charcoal crowd around when the column slows a bit and pathetically raise a forest of arms for something to eat.
Famous Paris is a two hour stopover on this ride. When the convoy holds up here you have time enough to dash into one of the Champs Elysees bars, order up a three franc glass of beer and be propositioned by a slinky, two hundred franc blonde. All you can remember of Paris itself is that it's big, beautiful and is relatively untouched by shells or bombs.
You hit the road again and in late afternoon find out you're in Soissons.
This is a little French town with characteristic "Ralston" box top window borders — — red and white checkerboard squares. It's a little town but the site of unusually extensive barracks. "A" Company picks itself a corner to live in, with other 11th units allotted various other buildings, and pretty soon you're comfortably settled. One important lap of your military career is ended. You think you're comfortably settled anyway.
But the Germans don't think so. This place probably stinks with military history, what with troops living and fighting here since Napoleon's time. When that flight of German planes finds you're open for business, you're willing to let Napoleon or the Kaiser or any of them have the place back.
Out of the silence and the hush of midnight blackout suddenly comes a swoop of angels' wings fluttering overhead, just above your head. You'd almost swear you feel the cold, clammy hand of death. Speedily you fall on your face, and then listen to the rat-a-tat of the machine guns, and imagine the corresponding kicking up of dust. As you lie there, you wonder this is such a large area, can it be that one of those slugs will find its way here?
Five minutes later there's great commotion all around camp, and you see that everyone else took this thing just as seriously as you did. "A fine way to spend Christmas Eve", somebody mutters. Then all of a sudden it hits you. You'd been so busy you'd forgotten what day it was! You'll never regret leaving this place.
But you'll never feel sorry about moving into Marbehan, Belgium. You're assigned with five other guys a billet at the house of Monsieur Charles Gautier and his Madame. You come into his Living room after chow and Charley, his long handlebar mustachios waving emphatically, gets you to sit down in his softest chair. Then while the Madame rustles up some cocoa or a sausage with beer, old Charley tells you in French what bastards the Germans were in their five year occupation of Belgium. You nod your head sympathetically, and get the general idea that the Boche had taken all, BUT ALL, from radios to the kitchen sink.
Herman is kind of worked up about the Jerries too when he finds out what they did. He tells you he is learning French so he can surprise the folks back in the hills when he returns. “Yeah, buddy, those so and so's made plenty of trouble around these parts and I'm a-fixing to give em the works when I get aholt of em." You could see Herm was getting to be a real Frenchman. He could say, "Cootcheevoos", or even "plankee-voos" just as though he were born at Marbehan himseif.
Marbehan is cold because it's January 10th, the middle of winter But you always have a nice place next to a stove in your billet to cuddle up to, if not something nicer. La Hutta is cold, and brother when La Hutta is cold you're cold too because you're out in the field with the heaven your ceiling and the snow, a foot thick, as your floor.
At La Hutta when you're scheduled for guard duty you put on two sweat shirts, two O. D. shirts, long Johns and two pairs of pants, besides three pairs of socks. Then with a couple pairs of gloves, mackinaw, scarf, wool cap you look like the Duffel bag, complete. After two hours of guard you spend four in your bedroll trying to get the freeze out of those toes and succeed just in time to pull your next shift.
The whole world is focused on you these days. Newspapers back home claim Bastogne the most embattled spot on earth for ail time, because about now, January 14, General "Ike" is making it sizzle for the best of the invincible men of Europe.
After those frosted days and nights at La Hutta you don't mind anything so much just so long as the old sack is located indoors and a stove is going full blast all the time.
One morning you go to work down at the Bastogne shop area and all of a sudden you see war You stare at one tank and you can hardly move away from the spot. It's perfect except for a neat hole punched through the turret armor. It's as though a hypodermic needle had been slid in, so even is the 88 puncture. Outside the tank is a mass of personal effects. A carbine nicked across the stock lies on top of a red" splotched rain cape. Nearby is a steel helmet with brains and blood on its rim like an ermine lined crown. You see bloody 75 shells, an overcoat with ribs sticking to a hole in its side, ration boxes, chewing gum, size 13 shoes, matches, one thing piled disorderly on the other.
Tanks keep coming in from the front about 2 miles away. They come in all day and all night. You patch them. You scrape blood and guts off a bolt and then turn it. New tanks come in and you process them. Any time of night. You're glad to do it. You’d do twice as much it possible because no matter how much you did you'd never equal the sacrifice of those ashes which used to be men that come back in the tanks.
Tankers tell you bitterly that these 75’s don't have a chance against the German 88’s. You wish you could do something, but all you can do is work with what you've got.
When you first came to Bastogne the Long Toms were in back of the barracks. They made the earth rock with their explosions all day and all night long. Now they're pulling out and taking position ever ahead. Little by little the battle is being won. That bulge is being chipped down; the Heinies' strength hacked away.
Until the middle of February you almost despair that the war would ever end, for the advances are always slow. Tanks and equipment simply cannot make headway in that combination of snow and mud. Slush is everywhere; roads look practically indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain.
Then February 28 you feel the first real upswinging of spirit when for the first time you enter Germany. You're inside the Siegiried line and you halt smile and halt think you're dreaming when you see the sign, "You are now entering the Siegfried line courtesy of the 11th Armored Division".
From here on you don't stay in any one place for a long time. It almost seems like one long road March — — with interludes.
What a pleasant interlude you run into at Niedermending. This is wine country and it doesn't take you long to find it out. You had sworn up and down that when the war ends you'd get drunk. But you can't wait. You have your choice of Rhinish wine, champagne, schnapps made from grapes and even beer. So you drink it all. You get drunk all right but the war still isn't over.
You must keep on going. There are so many vehicles streaming to the Rhine now that it seems like they're all going to a World Series game. You pass through grape country, alfalfa and orchards till finally it's your turn to go over the pontoon bridge.
It's March 28. You can feel your heart pounding extra hard. Ahead you see a dense tog, and detect an acrid, biting odor. No, it's not tog but a smokescreen. You can't hear what the guy next to you is saying because the tanks are making too much noise —— just their steady roar is audible. You think this a historic occasion but those GIs on duty near the bridge don’t seem to think so. They're too busy tossing a baseball around.
The sign says, "Bridge courtesy of — Engineer outfit". You're on it at last.
Looking out the back of your 2 1/2 ton truck you see that brownish cliff which is the west bank of the Rhine and your eyes follow the wisps of smoke as they rise to the top and disappear. Your mind wanders back to those first days in France, how the job seemed almost endless at that time. Somehow the homesick feeling is gone. You feel like thumbing your nose at Hitler, because you and a million others are crossing his sacred Rhine and there is nothing he nor his Nazis nor his secret weapons can do about it.
Now it is a real rat race. You’re in the CCA spearhead and heading across Germany so fast you wonder why some other outfit doesn’t do something to help win the war. (Later you find out they all feel the same way about it). Often the infantry is forty miles behind you and the supply lines have to be reopened with each convoy coming through. The spirit of the chase, of accomplishment is in the air and all you want to do is keep on going.
You really feel good when you take over the Gustloff Waffer factory in Suhl. This is a huge plant scarcely touched by bombing. Expensive machinery and equipment by the ton is in prime condition all ready to run. Not tar is another factory producing caliber 32 pistols. This has a drastic depressing effect on the market price of caliber 32 pistols. In fact soon there are so many of them in circulation and causing so many non-purple heart casualties that a Division order is issued prohibiting their use.
Inherited with the Gustloff plant are sixty French ex-prisoners of war. They’re plenty glad to be free and they're eager to help. They can help. You issue them brand new Mauser rifles hot off the lathe and off they go to assigned posts as guards doing this army job again for the first time in five years. Woe to the Nazi that crosses their sights.
Ukrainians, Poles and Italians are in lagers here too. There's hundreds of them. By this time you've met so many different nationalities that you pat yourself on the back in the realization of being a world traveler and thoroughly cosmopolitan.
But you're not cosmopolitan enough because you've still to be in Austria.
You do that too. May 6 you find out that the famous blue Danube is not blue at all; but maybe that's because it's blue only when you're in love. You're not in love with anything here. All you want to do is go home the quicker the better.
Wild rumors and flashes over the radio about German surrenders are coming a dime a dozen. In your imagination you were never in all your ETO experience closer to home than now.
You're parked in Urfahr, across the Danube from Linz. It's just about noon chow time, May 8. Captain Rayburn comes walking up the company street and you can see he's got something. "Men, all German resistance will cease as of 2401 May 9!"
Well, goddammit do something, say something. Let's hear those corks pop. You won the war. Didn't you?
Worried about the CBI,
133d ARMORED ORDNANCE MAINTENANCE BATTALION
Left Camp Cooke, September 15, 1944 Arrived in England, October 11, 1944
Left Camp Kilmer, September 28, 1944 Arrived in France, December 17, 1944
Hermitage at 1600 Arrived in Belgium, December 30, 1944
PLACE COUNTRY APPROX. STAY
Trowbridge England . 32 days
Warminster England . 34 days
Southampton England 4 hours
Cherbourg France 2 hours
Barneville France 3 days
Falaise France 1 day
Damville (air port) France 1 night
Soissons France 4 days
Launois France 5 days
St. Vincent Belgium 5 days
Marbehan Belgium 5 days
La Hutta Belgium 4 days
Bastogne Belgium 7 days
Hemroulle Belgium 3 days
Vaux Les Rosiers Belgium 14 days
Asselborn Luxembourg 2 days
Audrange Belgium 19 days
Schonburg Belgium 7 days
Wallerscheim Germany 2 days
Keisburg Germany 1 day
Mayen Germany 3 days
Niede~mending Germany 5 days
Driesch Germany 1 day
Panzweiler Germany l day
Dickensheid Germany 1 day
Marnheim Germany . 1 day
Marnheim Germany 3 days
Dorn Durkheim Germany 4 days
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 1945, six months, almost to the hour, since leaving New York Harbor, we crossed the Rhine at 1830, at the Oppenheim Bridge.
Weiskirchen Germany 1 day
Hanau Germany 1 day
Kressenbach Germany l day
Hazelbach Germany 2 days
Suhl Germany 3 days
Hiidburghausen Germany 2 days
Oberlauter Germany 1 day
Theisnort Germany 1 day
Stadt Steinach Germany 3 days
Kulmbach Germany 2 days
Mainch Germany 1 day
Bindlach Germany 3 days
Gossenrueth Germany 1 day
Pfreind Germany 1 day
Altenmarkt Germany 2 days
Freyung Germany 5 days
Greisbach Germany 1 day
Partenreith Austria 3 days
Urfahr Austria 1