We, the editors, have tried to set forth in this book an interesting, readable, and accurate account of the history of our company. It is, we know, far from complete and we are also aware that there are factual, typographical, and grammatical errors. To these shortcomings we plead guilty and can only cite the little time we had and our journalistic inexperience as extenuating circumstances.
All we ask is that you read this history and accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. The account of some dull and exciting, happy and tragic, easy and arduous days of 'B' Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion. So with the hope that you have as much enjoyment reading this as we have had in preparing it we will say good bye. The best of luck to you in the days to come, both as a soldier and as a civilian.
THANK YOU--The Editors
1st/Sgt. John A.
Blackburn T/Sgt. Frank C. Hartzell
To our comrades who died fighting we dedicate this book. When men live, eat, sleep, and fight a common foe for the length of time in which we were together we cannot forget you.
Let us who came through this ordeal with our lives make a solemn resolution that we will never let our great nation stoop to the level of doing the things which we saw and against which our comrades fought and died so bravely.
Elmore K. Fabrick
KILLED IN ACTION
1st Lt.Wilbur F.Jones
1st Lt. Adolph V. Karkula
On August, 15, 1942, when the British in northern Africa under the command of General Montgomery, were forced with their backs to the Red Sea, when the great naval base of Alexandria was threatened by Marshal Rommel’s African Corps, when the allied holdings on that continent were in peril, when “To the victor belonged armor”, there was activated another armored division in the United States, a division that, should need be, could be sent to the rescue in the great battle for the African desert. This Division was the Eleventh Armored Division, commanded by Major General Edward E. Brooks.
A component, the 55th Armored Infantry Regiment was activated at Camp Polk, LA, on the same date, under the command of Colonel Virgil Bell. As a nucleus around which to form a rugged fighting team, Col. Bell had assigned to serve under his command, 85 officers and an enlisted cadre composed of 364 men, from the 48th, 36th, and 49th Armored Infantry Regiments. The Regiment was immediately formed into three Battalions, the 2nd commanded by Lt. Col. (then Major) James Hoffman, under whose guidance Company E of that Battalion was to be formed into a combat company, ready to meet Hitler’s best.
From activation day (Aug. 15, 1942) until late that fall, the cadre men worked day and night on the practical principles of blackout, distance, map and compass reading. The days were well spent in refreshing basic training, with emphasis on military discipline, courtesy, close order drill, and the skillful use of all weapons. All in all, these future leaders of Company E had little time to even think of that good cold beer that awaited them at PX #10,after the long day’s work was through.
On October 10, all companies were presented with their guidons on the Regiment parade grounds by Brigadier General Mullins, CCB commander, in a colorful ceremony.
On November 17, the recruits began to arrive. They came from camps and reception centers all over the 48 states, reception covered a period of two months. From that day on, began those days that will remain in our minds and hearts for many years to come; Basic Training; road marches – five, ten,, twenty and twenty-five miles a day; close order drill; guard; and, oh yes KP. Later came the range firing which at first featured “Maggie’s Drawers”, but the red flag soon gave way to expert and sharpshooters badges.
The unit participated in many command post exercises from late fall in 1942 until commencement of maneuvers in June, 1943.
It’s hard to think back over so many years, but many of us will never forget those Louisiana rains. Many times we didn’t know whether we were on Army or Navy maneuvers.
Then of course there were the snakes and every kind of animal imaginable to bother us through those long trying months. After making ten or twelve river crossings and walking over nearly every square mile of western Louisiana and part of Texas, we returned to dear old Camp Polk. We stayed just long enough for he entire company to get the GIs, then entrained for Camp Barkeley, Texas. Don’t know what was so interesting in that little room at the end of the coach, but the boys sure kept it busy. Those guarding the vehicles on the flat cars had quite a time too, so I’m told. They learned that the steel helmet could be used for other things besides a headgear.
Upon arriving at Barkley the Table of Organization was changed and the 55th Armored Infantry regiment gave way to three separate Infantry Battalions, namely the 21st, 55th, and 63d. Thus old E Company of the 5th Armored Infantry regiment became B Company of the 21st Armored Infantry Battalion, and so it remained.
Our stay in the Lone Star state was short and sweet. We arrived there in the last part of August, 1943 and remained for two short months. We had a pretty nice set-up there and were all quite sure that, at last, this bunch of forgotten soldiers were really getting a break. We found out, however, that those two months were just the “calm before the storm” for in October we left for the California-Arizona maneuver area.
Our base camp in that hell-hole was Camp Ibis, located near Needles, California. There on the sands of the Mohave Desert, the men of Company B were put to the real test, maneuvering not only against military objectives, but against the sun, wind, rain and cold of the desert.
Happy was the day when the boys of the 21st loaded onto those 2 1/2 ton trucks and headed for Camp Cooke, California.
California To England Or From Sunshine To Bitters
When we arrived at Camp Cooke on February 7, 1944, the barracks looked pretty good after out recent safari on the Mohave Desert. Furloughs were the big cry and the cry was heard for everyone was granted a fifteen day reprieve plus traveling time.
Intensive ~mall unit--squad and platoon--problems were stressed in the first phase of training and later company and battalion tactics were practiced. The company averaged an almost daily assault on some pillbox in Honda Canyon or against an 'enemy' dug in among the dunes along the coast,
Considerably under strength, the battalion received replacements from the disbanding ASTP. Three weeks basic training was in store for these men and assigned to the task were SSgts, Warfield, Ingle and Dadasovich. Mission was accomplished due to the high intelligence and cooperation of the men.
Weekends would find the majority of 'B' Company Pass Goers down Los Angeles way cutting a rug at the Paladium or guzzling a coke-hi at Dave's Juke Box Joint. Men know to have permanent reservations at above mentioned USO were SSgts. (Two Beer) O'Brien and (Cue Ball) Garrett. Just thirty minutes half-track time, north of camp on busy route 101, was Pismo Beach. Swimmers will recall Sunday plunges in the cool Pacific and much other time spent trying to sell some fair young lady on the wonders of armored infantrymen, or something. Then of course, there was always Lompoc or Santa Maria for a quick evening visit,
During the months of July and August preparations for overseas deployment was the big thing. Inspections and A.G.F. tests took up much of the time. And day and night from the motor-pool issued forth the sounds and smells of the building of hundreds of crates and boxes and the processing of heavy weapons and equipment in cosmoline. Then early on the morning of September 15th,---bidding farewell to the land of sunshine - all boarded the Southern Pacific heading east
The ride cross country seemed to agree with everyone. Though passing through home states and towns was disheartening to many, a majority of the fellows enjoyed the trip. Upon arrival at Camp Kilmer, N.J. we were immediately processed. This took about three days. Then men were given passes to the big city, New York or -to those lucky enough to be close by home.
On September 28th we boarded the USS Hermitage, former Italian luxury liner, and set sail for merrie olde England. No sooner were we assigned our bunks, about five decks down, then we were herded into the ships galley and informed that we were on DS in above mentioned place for the rest of the trip. Along the way we were entertained by the ships orchestra, boxing matches and other musical entertainment. Pfc, 'Pat' Hernandez defeated the ship's champ in a three round, no title go. It took Pat just one of the scheduled three rounds to flatten his opponent.
October 10th found us docking at Southhampton, England There we boarded a train and rode to Upton Lovell where our camp was located. Here physical conditioning was stressed and an organized athletic program was carried out. Bob Beach, Zimmi Mills, Dan Murphy, Tommy Dufour, Dimni Olenick, George Dadasovich and many others will long remember the ankle deep mud in which the Thursday afternoon football classics were staged.
On Tuesday night all hep-cats could be found steppin' around down at the ‘Codford Ball'. 'Ivory Finger' Higgins and his 21st Doughs furnished the Jive. Forty-eight hour passes were plentiful and the boys took advantage of same. For them it was the Codford Limited, next stop London and its Piccadilly Circus Things were rather expensive in England's capitol unless one went through the city strictly on a sight-seeing tour.
THE 21st LEAVES ENGLAND FOR FRANCE
Having been in England for a little over two months, the 11th Armored Division was given an assignment on the battle front. First to leave were the half tracks with their drivers and car commander. Leaving Camp Upton Lovell on the 13th of December, they started for the channel. That night they stayed at Camp Hurely, Ramsey, England leaving the next morning and arriving in Southhampton. The tracks were loaded on a Liberty ship ready to sail. The ship MT-311, had an American crew who were very friendly and almost seemed to enjoy the company of a bunch of GI's. The 15th of December was spent on the English Channel with no one getting very sick. The channel was very calm according to the sailors who had made twelve previous crossings on that ship.
The majority of the company left Upton Lovell on 14th Dec. and stayed in pyramidal tents at a camp near Southampton that night. Boarding an English ship on the 15th Dec. they set sail for Cherbourg, where they arrived the next day. The same day they left by truck for a bivouac area in the vicinity of Barneville where they were when the vehicles arrived. Sunday morning, the green field where we had slept, was just a sea of mud. By noon it was so sticky and deep that we were al1 reminded of movies we'd seen of World War I and wondered how we'd be able to stand conditions like that for very long.
Monday morning, 18th, Dec., we moved south, headed for St. Nazaire, France, where an infantry division had a bunch of Germans trapped with their backs to the sea. That day we traveled about 120 miles going through Barneville, Averanches, Constance and Rennes. At night we bivouacked on an air strip at Jacques, just south of Rennes. Tuesday was spent on the air strip getting ready for battle. Cleaning guns, checking rations and equipment etc. Wednesday, the 20th, there were some pretty strong rumors that our orders had been changed. We didn't know just how to take it. The men were really doing a lot of guesswork trying to figure where we would go.
The next day we left the air field about 0700 hours headed for Liege where the Germans had staged their largest and last counter offensive that threatened to be a serious set-back to Allied arms. Friday, the 22nd, we drove all day passing through the French towns of Nogent, Chartres and we stayed in another field near Rambouillet. Saturday, two days before Christmas, we went through Paris, Meaux, La Ferte, Chateau Thierry, and Rheims. There was nothing much to look forward to but another uncomfortable cold night in some farmer's field. About dusk we drove through Rheims and wondered if we were ever going to stop for the night. It was getting very dark and beginning to snow. At nine o'clock that evening we approached what looked like another city---our column and the city were completely blocked out. We stopped and were informed that we were to spend the night in the barracks of Camp Soisson. The company went almost wild with joy. Having slept out for the past week in the middle of winter the thought of four walls, a roof and maybe a little heat was almost too much for tired men to imagine.
The next day, Christmas Eve, was spent in Camp and that night we had a drink from the officer's liquor rations which they shared with us. Many attended church services. Next morning we were ready to move out. Christmas on the road was the main trend of conversation. We received some mai1 which made everybody feel a little better---or maybe a little more home-sick. However, we did eat Christmas turkey that day which the cooks had prepared in a moving truck. The kitchen crew is too often overlooked. They really worked that day so that we all could have a good Christmas dinner.
The move on Christmas Day took us to Singly, France where we dug fox holes and pitched tents. Tuesday, the 26th, we remained at Singly and sent out recon parties. Wednesday we still stayed in Singly, awaiting movement orders and sent out another recon party to Sedan. Our mission at this time was to defend the line of the Meuse River, and the reconnaissance was to select suitable defensive positions. Thursday was another bitter day of waiting, and discussion concerned to which Army we had been assigned. At 2300 hours, Friday 28th Dec., orders came to be ready to move early the next morning.
A TRIBUTE TO A LEADER
The Third Army has its General Patton, the Pacific Theatre, General Mac Arthur, divisions have their colorful commanders, but Company B has Captain Elmore K. FABRICK as a hero to be long remembered. Capt. Fabrick is one of those rare individuals one seldom meets now-a-days, especially in the Army. His character, habits, and leadership are admired and praised by all who know him. Sundays, he was always seen among the men attending Religious services. At meal time he stood and took his turn in line along with the lowest 'buck private', His men always came first in his mind. His square dealing and good judgment is know to all. Men who have strayed from the straight and narrow path have said that they felt hurt more by the fatherly way he talked with them than by the punishment he gave them.
Captain Fabrick does not smoke or drink and his speech and manners are those of a true gentleman. His use of the word 'damn' once during the Battle of the Bulge was the harshest word he has been heard to utter. His pet phrase 'Gosh Dang' has become common usage in the company. From the first day of combat to the last, Capt. FABRICK'S skillful and courageous leadership was known not only to this battalion but all over the Combat Command. In the second day of combat he dismounted from the lead half track and led the lead tank which was bogging down and headed in the wrong direction, around and started the task force in the right direction After reorganizing, he lead the company up and over the hill into the face of murderous 88's and small arms fire against the best soldiers that the German army could muster, Men were falling all around but still Captain FABRICK kept walking with his 536 radio in one hand with the aerial sticking high in the air and his carbine in the other, urging his men onward. By darkness the hill had been taken and the town was all cleaned out. The next morning, while continuing the attack, Captain Fabrick was hit in the foot by shrapnel but never stopped. By the loss of almost all the Platoon leaders and key NCO.'s, his job was greatly increased, but still he carried on more courageously than ever. At night instead of taking his much needed rest, he continually checked outposts and kept watch in order to strengthen the security of all units behind us.
An example of his premonition was illustrated at Mande, Belgium. Captain Fabrick and seven men slept upstairs in a hay barn, the few minutes that anyone slept that night. The next morning at an early hour, he came down and told the sergeant to awaken the men that were upstairs and get them down. The sergeant questioned the order in his mind as it was still dark and the rest of the men were getting some much needed sleep. Nevertheless, he aroused the men and ten minutes after they got downstairs an 88 came tearing through the side of the stone wall and landed where they had been previously sleeping.
At Regen when burp guns and small arms fire were sweeping the open read, he remarked, 'These Jerries can't hit anything.' Then he advanced leading the company across the stream at the blown bridge and into the strongly defended town Men have often said that times when enemy fire was so hot that they were afraid to raise their heads above the ground, they would look up and see the Captain calmly walking around or firing his carbine from the hip. Many times it seemed that one would be up because they felt that they couldn't let him down.
Captain Fabrick comes from Rockford Illinois where his wife and young daughter now reside. He was graduated from the University of Florida and came on the cadre to the 11th Armored Division from the 3rd Armored. Until the end of combat he was the CO of B Company. At the present time he is Battalion Commander of the 21st Armd. Inf. Bn. Although we hated to see him go we were all glad to see him receive the promotion he so rightly deserved.
Captain Fabrick has been awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Purple Heart.
PRESENT FOR DUTY
The saga of Co. 'B' of the 21st Armored Infantry Battalion from the evening of Dec. 29th, 1944 when it was preparing for its initial baptism of fire until the conclusion of its fighting in Belgium the last of January. It was on the afternoon of Dec. 29 that Baker Company pulled off the main highway after an 80 mile forced march from Singly, and prepared to bivouac for the night. The bivouac area was on a hill, an ideal situation for defense. The weather was freezing cold and the ground was frozen and covered with slight layer of snow.
Here we received our first introduction to the idea of death, which we were to meet so frequently in the days to follow. A German fighter plane had crashed in the center of our bivouac area the day before. The bodies of two German flyers were strewn lifelessly on the field. Many of us inspected these grotesque frozen bodies and entertained the idea that we too might soon meet a similar fate.
On the following morning Dec. 30th. Co. B as a member of Task Force Barraster made its first combat attack; present for duty; 235 EM and six officers. The attack got off to a bad start when part of the company was directed down the wrong road. This mistake was rectified was by Lt. Stringfellow, who got us reorganized and on the right road. Our first objective was the town of Jodenville, Belgium which Baker Co. entered forcing the enemy to withdraw.
Our position during the morning was subject to severe enemy artillery and mortar fire. The first casualties of the Company were suffered when a second platoon half track was hit by an artillery shell and over turned; this track was commanded by S Sgt Ingle. A few minutes later a first platoon half track was hit by a mortar shell and three men were seriously wounded; this half track was commanded by S Sgt O'Brien.
After securing the town of Jodenville the company mounted up and attacked across country toward a patch of woods held by the enemy. The woods were strongly defended by anti-tank guns, and the task force was forced to withdraw with the loss of seven medium tanks. Our company suffered no casualties. We pulled back to the town of Jodenville and set up a defense for the night.
At noon the following day, supported by a company of tanks we were again on the attack. Our objective was the high ground south of Chenogne, Belgium. We succeeded in entering the town of Chenogne during the afternoon, but were forced to withdraw that night. This was New Years Eve, 1945, a night that Co. B will not soon forget. There wasn't any celebration that night, only suffering and hardship. We did not have any overcoats, we were cold, we were tired, and too cold to sleep. The ground was frozen on the surface and resisted our entrenching shovels. We were dug in on the left of the road leading into town; the houses on our left were blazing and cast weird shadows on the snow.
The following day, New Years Day, we renewed the assault on the town. The Germans had brought in reinforcements during the night, and they resisted stubbornly. The fighting was bloody and our casualties were high. Chenogne was a strong point in Von Runstedt's salient into Belgium and the defenders were determined to hold. In spite of the bitter resistance there we succeeded in clearing the town by noon and began to reorganize. In the late afternoon we advanced by foot and vehicle in the direction of Mande. Ground opposition was light, but we were subject to mortar and artillery fire.
As darkness had set in we formed our defenses, and dug in for the night. It was a repetition of the night before; freezing feet and hands, and again we sweated out the dawn.
We remained in position during the following day, Jan. 2, but late in the afternoon, we prepared to attack the village of Mande, Belgium. After the usual preparatory artillery we advanced with the tanks into the tow. The enemy had already withdrawn, but they had the town zeroed in with their artillery and mortars. There was not much sleep for us that night. Just when things had quieted down a little, the cry of “Counter Attack”, was heard. We hurriedly grabbed our guns and fell out in a blinding snow storm and, in spite of the confusion, we attempted to form a line of defense. Due to the quantity and accuracy of our artillery and tank fire the Germans failed to retake the town.
On the next day, Jan. 3rd, we were relieved at Mande by elements of the 17th Airborne Division. It was a weary, suffering group of men that straggled from the town that morning. Many of the men could not walk or could do so only with difficulty, because of frozen feet. After a mounted march of several hours, we reached the town of Au Chene, Belgium, late in the evening. Here we found billets in barns and houses. We were not particular; any place; just to roll up in some blankets and sleep, and be warm.
We remained at Au Chene for nine days for a maintenance break and what a break it was for us. We had an opportunity to get some good hot food and some much needed rest. We were issued new clothes and equipment. It was interesting to note that present for duty at this time were 150 EM and four officers. Due to this loss of men the second platoon was dissolved, and the men assigned to the first and third platoons.
On January 12, we received orders to prepare to march. We moved out that evening and spent most of the night on the road. It was early morning when we closed in the little town of Villeroux, Belgium. The weather was again freezing and cold. We suffered from cold feet and hands. Men stamped up and down the road in an attempt to keep warm. We built fires and huddled around them. The snow reached a depth of two feet or more. The combination of deep snow and our clumsy rubber boots made walking very hard and tiring. That day, Jan. 13, Company B was attached to Task Force Blackjack. We moved through the now famous town of Bastogne and dug in northeast of the town.
On the morning of Jan. 14, we were prepared to attack. There we were now three officers and 142 EM, present for duty with the company. Our mission was to give supporting fire to Task Force Shamrock but we ended up attacking the town of Corbru. By vehicle, we moved to the woods overlooking the town and after an artillery and tank barrage we attacked in a mounted formation. The town was well fortified with Krauts. They had dug in position around the town and were using the houses for defenses also. Our display of fire power and tanks was to much for their weakened morale, however, and many of them surrendered when we got within close fighting range.
Clearing this town was a difficult job as every house had to be searched from the attic to the basement. The terrified and wounded civilians added to the confusion of our task. Our casualties in men killed were high for we were receiving mortar and tank fire from the next hill. Sniper fire forced us to move with great caution. Two men were killed learning this lesson. By nightfall we had succeeded in occupying most of the town. We outposted the town, and settled down to sweating it out. During the night there were repeated rumors of movement by enemy vehicles.
On the following day, Jan. 15, we rejoined the battalion and became part of Task Force Shamrock. Moving through deep snow on foot we attacked cross country supported by tanks and TD's. Our first objective was the woods east of Noville and south of the St. Vith Highway. We received little resistance from the woods after reaching this position, Then we moved to our second objective which was the woods north of the St. Vith Road. When we reached this objective we were under heavy fire. Armor piercing 88's slipped across the frozen snow.
That night we formed our defenses, and dug in as usual. The half tracks came up during the night and brought us C-rations and blankets. In the morning we were again on the attack and B Company was mounted on the tanks of the 41st Tank Battalion. Jockeying the tanks over those frozen hills of Belgium was a new experience for us. The machines plunged and bucked through the snow drifts, necessitating a firm grip in order to stay on them. When the tanks stopped their cannons began. The muzzle blast was terrific, rocking and shaking the whole tank. Needless to say, those tanks silhouetted on the hill tops made excellent targets for the 88's. The thought of a direct hit kept us a little on the nervous side.
Our attack carried us across the Bastogne-Houffalize Highway bypassing the town of Wicourt on the west we reached our final objective which was the woods on the high ground south of Houffalize. We attacked these woods in a skirmish line, every rifle and carbine blazing. Our fire power was to much for the Germans; they either fled or surrendered. One anti-aircraft gun almost foiled the attack. The Germans tried to depress the barrel to use direct fire against us but this failed, the tracers arched neatly over our heads, and the attack was a success,
He cleared the woods of Germans and held fast. The enemy was fleeing across the field in the direction of Houffalize. One gun mount was making a desperate attempt to escape our on-rush. A lone German was trying to hitch a ride on the back of it but he was easy prey for our rifles and fell dead in the snow. Then a machine gun opened up on the fleeing mount and it exploded as if it were hit by a 155 shell. The three Krauts that were the crew of the gun were flung into the air and the mount burst into flames. We formed a defensive position around the woods, and prepared for the night Our vehicles brought us food and blankets and much needed ammunition.
That evening Capt. Fabrick took a patrol out to cheek 16. on some farm buildings that were in front of us and when. they returned they had fifty German prisoners with them who had taken refuge there. Clearing these woods had been the final action in the severing of the Bulge into Belgium. That evening units of the 41st Calvary Squadron made contact with the 1st Army driving down from the north. We were awakened in the morning of Jan. 17th by a barrage from a German rocket battery which cost us several men. That afternoon we were relieved by elements of the 17th Airborne Division and retired by road march to the town of Champs, Belgium. Present for duty were 123 EM and one officer: Captain Fabrick.
The success of our company's actions during those trying days in Belgium can be largely attributed to Capt. Fabrick. His fearlessness and high spirits kept us going in the face of enemy fire and demoralizing conditions. In this last action the company resembled a platoon in size with Capt. Fabrick as its leader.
The company arrived at Champs in an exhausted condition on Jan. 17. Our barracks were barns and battered houses, just any place to sleep and find refuge from the cold was all we wanted, and it was all we had. But it seemed like heaven to us for we could rest our minds as well as our bodies. We remained here from January 17th to the 20th. Yes; it was a short time but it gave us a chance to clean our guns and organize our equipment and write a few letters home to our loved ones. It was hard to write and say that all was well and for them not to worry but somehow you did it and then turned to your other duties. It was here also that we received our first replacements. Fifty men were assigned to the company.
On the 20th of January, we again took to the road moving to a wooded area southwest of Foy, where Task Force Rocket was formed. We were lucky to find some German dug outs that night and so we slept in them. The next day we moved to an assembly area near Noville, Belgium. This was the region we had cleared of the enemy only last week. The boys managed to fine some wood so that we could spend the day huddled around a fire. We stayed here that night and the next day moved to the town of Bourcy, Belgium. Our mission at this time was to support the 17th Airborne, which was in pursuit cavalry of the enemy to the east. Unsuccessful attempts were made by our cavalry to contact the enemy. Bourcy was Just like so many other towns in Belgium which had served as battlegrounds for the American and German forces. Few houses were left untouched, none had window glass in them, cows and pigs were running in the streets.
The few war shattered civilians who still clung to their homes, livid in the cellars or anywhere that they could find shelter. As usual, we lived in barns or any place that would give us a little shelter from the weather. We put canvas over the windows so as to be able to make a little light and to keep out the cold. Before we could bed down we had to shovel the debris out. The kitchen was housed in an old school, but it was better than nothing. We remained in Bourcy for two days Jan. 22nd to Jan. 24th. At last we were issued the shoe pacs and heavy wool stockings. Better later than never, but it would have been so much better if we could have received them a month sooner.
On Jan. 24th, we moved to Massul, Belgium. This town had not been hit by the war and so we were able to find better living quarters. Most of the squads and platoons found houses in which to live. The people here were also very friendly towards us which helped to make our stay more enjoyable.
One cherished memory of our time at Massul is the opportunity we had to take showers. We went by truck to Neufchateau where QM showers were set up. This was our first bath since leaving England a month and a half before. While at Massul we received sixty more replacements. This brought our company strength to 247 EM and five officers by the end of January.
THE SIEGFRIED LINE
Early on the morning of February 4th, word came for the company to move out on another mission. This time we were to assigned CCR under Colonel Bell Our mission was to make an attack of the Siegfried Line. Unlike our previous missions, only the infantry battalions were to take part.
The company moved out in convoy. Preceding through devastated Bastogne, we crossed the Our River and come onto German soil for the first time. Moving on, we came to the outskirts of the town of Heckhuscheid at dusk. Leaving our tracks, we moved into the town in the dark and took over the outposts from the 90th Div.. For the next day and night we manned their outposts, waiting for the word to jump off. A few prisoners came drifting into our outposts here. Sorry looking specimens they were too, hungry and worn looking, glad that for them the war was finally over.
At 0400 hours on February came the word we had been waiting for and we pushed off from the town into the Siegfried. We successfully crossed this to come upon our first objective, a number of large bunkers. The Germans were taken completely by surprise and we captured these without firing a shot. Numerous prisoners were captured here. With the capture of the bunkers our biggest obstacle was removed and we pushed on rapidly to take our final objective, the high ground overlooking more of the Siegfried Line near the town of Lutzkampan.
Digging in along the high ground, we prepared to hold the position until the 90th Division which was attacking on our left flank could move up. An enemy counterattack of approximately company strength wan quickly repulsed. The enemy then retaliated with intense artillery, nebelwerfer and mortar fire as well as direct 88 fire from a number of tanks deployed in the woods to our front. Our artillery was successful in knocking our at least one of these tanks.
Due to the slower progress of the 90th Division, our left flank was exposed and enemy snipers infiltrates and inflicted some casualties. In spite of the intensely cold, wet weather which caused a great many of our men to be evacuated with trenchfoot, we maintained our positions until February 9th, at which time the 63rd A.I.B. moved in and relieved us. Happy we were to move back to the town of Heckhalenfeld for a well deserved rest.
OUTPOSTING ON THE OUR
Moving from Germany, we went back into Luxembourg, to the town of Breidfeld where our Company went into reserve. Company A in the meantime moved up to the town of Leiler and took over outposts which had been established by elements of the 6th Armored Division.
It was in Breidfeld that the weather at long last broke and the days were bright and sunny. After the intense cold of the past winter it was a welcome relief.
On the 16th of February our company moved up to take over the outpost positions near Leiler which were being manned by A Company. Continuous patrols were maintained but enemy action was negligible. From our outposts we could see the enemy moving around their fortifications across the river.
In the meanwhile, the 6th Armored Division had been driving forward on our right flank, and CCR of the 11th was attacking on the left. A junction of these two forces was accomplished and the enemy positions to the front of our outposts were cut off.
On the morning of February 22nd, Company A of the 21st together with two platoons of tanks from the 22nd Tank Battalion, moved forward to our front and meeting only scattered enemy resistance succeeded in making a junction with CCR and the 6th Armored. This action terminated the need for our positions and we moved back to the town of Breidfeld for a maintenance break.
All that could be heard was the slush, slush of G.I. boots in the mud and the melting snow, the creak and muffled rattle of rifle slings and web equipment, and an occasional muttered curse as the company of infantry moved into the battered village in the Siegfried Line that dark dreary January night. Although the men had left their vehicles not more than a mile outside of town it seemed to them that they'd been walking an interminable length of time. A guy had to practically hang on to the G.I. in front of him to keep from getting lost; the bed-rolls, machine guns, and other equipment were heavy; and the damn ice was as slippery as anything we had ever seen. More than one man was shivering in spite of his sweat because of a spill into some ice-skimmed mud puddle on the rut-filled road. All in all, it seemed as if the platoon would never reach the town and some kind of shelter. Tempers were short. A G.I. will bitch when the going's good. When it's tough his griping is the work of a true artist!
When the men were finally halted somewhere in the town surrounded by the shells of buildings--not a man had the slightest idea where he was. There was the inevitable wait while the lieutenant and non-coms got together for their confab.
"Where's De Leo?"----"which house do we take?"----"Sergeant, we need one squad for outpost duty."-- "I think it's up this way." "Why the hell don't they cut the fooling around and make up their minds what they're gonna do!" This from a man close enough to the group to hear the conversation.
"Take it easy, buddy; you'll last longer," replied one of the sergeants who had overheard the remark.
"Yeah; well, if you guys'd get on the ball and ---"
"You trying to start somethin'?"
"Damn right, and if you're man enough----“
"Come on, Frank, let it go," urged another one of the squad leaders, "We'll never get settled." .
"Yeah, but hell- --" oh, he's right, the sergeant thought, we're all as irritable as an old she-bear with three cubs. This guy's as tired as I am and who knows, tomorrow we may both be dead. We've got Krauts to fight without fighting ourselves.” By this time the platoon sergeant had located the houses.
"Bring your squad and follow me, Hartzell!”
"Okay, boys. let's go.”
With cursings yet still glad to be moving again, the machine gun squad picked up its equipment and stumbled forward into the darkness. Five minutes of walking brought them to the blown down door of a typical Siegfried Line farm house. Several shell holes in it, litter-filled rooms, perhaps two or maybe even three rooms that were still halfway weather tight and intact.
“We’ll stay here, boys. Find a place to sleep and stretch out. Boucher, you take the first shift of door guard. I’ll tell you how long when I find out what the deal on outposts is. The Krauts are that way. This is the Siegfried you’ve heard so much about.”
Half of the squad went into the only good room on the ground floor; the rest, seeing it could hold no more, went upstairs in search of another. At the head of the stairs were two doors. One led into a room with straw on the floor and a roof although there was a hole in the wall.
The second door opened into a room which at that moment was probably duplicated in a thousand other little villages all over Europe. A half-lighted, smoke-filled straw-strewn little room. So miserable, yet so comfortable compared to the outside. Around the walls and on the floor were the traces of other occupants. A few M-1 clips, the wrappings of a K-ration, an old sock, three C-ration cans, a pair of web suspenders, some German engineer tape and rifle ammunition, a worn pocket edition of some historical novel, and two old wine bottles --- one filled with gasoline and a twisted rag from which a flickering light was coming along with a generous smudge of smoke. Shelter half over the window, a couple of rifles and a carbine stacked in a corner
Around a wood fire in a stove fashioned from a few pieces of wire and an old bucket were huddled three wet, unshaven, dirty, weary looking American soldiers warming their feet by the fire.
“What the hell! Are you guys from the 90th?” asked one of the new arrivals.
“yeah, that’s right, pal. Come on in and sit down.”
“Your outfit’s cleared out, you know.”
“All but us, you mean.”
“What’s the deal?”
“We’re going out on a little patrol in about an hour,” explained one of the group around the stove. “Jesus!’ exclaimed Brozovitz as he set a machine gun in the corner and moved over closer to the fore, “You mean you guys are going out THERE tonight?” He was a replacement, new to combat and had never even seen a German, let alone gone on patrol.
''Yep, that's the general idea."
“Well, what do you do - how far out do you go?"
"Oh, we just go out until we draw fire and then try to see how many Krauts are around. Usually get out seven or eight hundred yards."
"You've been out before?"
"Yeah, we were out last night."
The majority of the men quickly spread their bed rolls out on the floor and, after hanging up their socks and gloves to dry, were soon asleep but two or three stayed up around the stove, preferring its warmth and a little conversation to sleep.
How often does a man--particularly one about to go into combat for the first time--spend his last night or last few hours before battle in low, subdued, quiet conversation with a buddy or just any other soldier. The conversation that is so common to such rooms and such fires and such groups on the last outposts of civilization. Often the last few hours of life; always the overture to the opera of death and effort and excitement that is battle ground
They talked of many things. Their home towns and states, their wives and girls, their combat experiences and tips, their outfits. This was to be a big thing tomorrow. All three regiments of the 90th were attacking. All three of the 11th's infantry outfits were moving out. And somebody heard that the Sixth Armored and the 9th were also attacking. Maybe this was the big push to break through the Siegfried Line. These men came to know each other well in that short hour in that smoky, stuffy, chilly room in a shell shattered village of Germany. They came from thousands of miles away, from as many different cities and farms, factories and schools all over America to meet in that late hour on that dark winter night. They were but an infinitesimal part of the grand and complex scheme of trial and conflict that was going on all over the world at that very same moment. A million men in a million places were doing a million different jobs but these men were as important and as much a part of that great plan as is one link in a mighty chain. Without that one link or any of its many brothers the whole chain is worthless. Yes, these soldiers came to know each other well yet they never even knew the next man's name. That is war. A simple definition, too.
Finally - to one man it seemed a short time, to another an eternity, the sergeant from the 90th lit another cigarette, glanced at his watch, took a deep drag, and rising said, "Well, guys, guess it's about time."
"Yep, Bob, guess it is," and the other two reached for their helmets and rifle belts.
As the patrol stooped to file out the door the two men left around the now nearly dead fire said,
"So long, boys, good luck."
"Yeah, so long yourself. Take it easy."
THE TWIN DRIVES TO THE RHINE
The first of March found B Company at Breidfeld, Luxembourg taking full advantage of the week's rest they had in that badly beaten village on the Luxembourg Frontier. Rumors were flying thick and fast, something was in the air, something big. The German was reeling back from the severe beating they had suffered in the Siegfried. Patton wants to be first to the Rhine, was one of the favorite stories told. When orders came down to be ready to go by four in the morning everybody said, "The Rhine, it's the Rhine before we get a break"'
To the old men of the company this talk of a drive to the Rhine was not only terrible to think about but also impossible to do. The furthest the company had ever been able to go in miles to the Rhine seemed impossible.
The weather the next morning when the battalion moved out was wet and muddy. As we traveled from Luxembourg into Germany through the once mighty Siegfried the feeling of terror increased. The company closed in bivouac on the high ground west of Prum in the township of Sellerich, late on the afternoon of March 2nd. The following morning we moved to the assembly area on the east side of the town of Sellerich. While digging in we received several barrages of enemy artillery. de remained here for two days waiting for the word to jump off in the attack. The Germans sent in enough shells to make our stay here unpleasant and we were all glad when the time to move forward finally arrived.
Leaving the assembly area, we moved on foot through the town of Prum to the high ground on the other side. We dug in here for a short time until our tracks could come over the Prum River to join us. We then mounted and moved out in the direction of our objective. Our tanks cleared all opposition and our bivouac that night was uneventful. Next morning, 6th March, we moved forward again and continued to a large patch of woods. Here we dismounted and proceeded forward into the woods to clear the. No enemy was discovered in the woods and we finally broke into the open on the high ground overlooking the Kyll River. As we were digging in we received small arms fire from a small town to our front. Artillery succeeded in neutralizing this opposition. The following morning we moved in to clear the town and discovered that the enemy had withdrawn. Late in the day we returned to our half tracks and spent the night in the area.
The following day we pushed off once more. This time our mission was to secure a bridgehead across the Kyll River at the town of Ober Bettingen. The first three platoons of the company made a frontal attack on the town and in spite of heavy sniper fire had succeeded in clearing it by mid-afternoon. They then crossed the river and were immediately pinned down by heavy fire from the woods to their front. Suffering heavy casualties they were forced to remain here until dark. When they withdrew after dark, a second attempt to establish a bridgehead was successful.
In the meanwhile, the fourth platoon had mounted tanks to make a flanking attack on the town and to establish a bridgehead. With the aid of fine supporting fire from the tanks they were successful in doing this. They held positions in the woods across the river for the remainder of the day. Joined by the rest of the company after dark, the positions were held until the engineers had succeeded in bridging the river. When this had been accomplished, we pulled back into town for what was left of the night while elements of the 90th Division relieved us. The next day we moved back to an assembly area. Rumors were running wild as to what our next mission would be.
On the morning of March 10th we moved two column, our destination, the Rhine River. The Fourth Armored had jumped off the previous day on a parallel drive. For our company the drive was uneventful. German resistance was crumbling and our pace was fast and furious. This was the type of war for which we had been trained. A breakthrough, and exploitation of it by a fast hard hitting drive. Enemy troops gave up by the thousands after they were by-passed and the roads were filled with a continuous stream of prisoners moving to our rear. Our drive was finished when advance elements reached the Rhine at Brehl. Our company stopped at Neider Oberweiler where we stayed for several days. While there we cleared out the neighboring town of Kell and sent a patrol to the Rhine. From Neider Oberweiler we moved to the town of Glees for a maintenance break.
On the 17th of March we again received orders to move out and made a night march to the town of Lausonhausen. The following day we moved on again to the Moselle River which was to be the starting point for our second drive to the Rhine. This time we were moving in a southwestern direction.
We crossed the Moselle on the 19th and drove towards the town of Buchenbemen. Here we ran into a blown out railroad bridge strongly defended. The Germans were using 20 mm.AA guns for ground defense against us, for the first time in our experience. We attempted to cross the bridge but suffered heavy casualties and were forced to pull back to our side and dig in. The following morning we affected a crossing and after the bridge was repaired continued our drive.
On the night of the 20th we entered the City of Kirn and cleared it in spite of some small arms fire. Spending the night in Kirn, the following day we forded the Nahe River and moved on. On this day our spearheading tanks overtook an enemy column and destroyed large numbers of enemy vehicles. Our company dropped out at this time to guard a bridge and while here large numbers of enemy prisoners poured in. The night was spent in this vicinity.
The following day our column moved fast and furiously to find itself at the end of the day outside the city of Worms. In the meanwhile the 4th Armored Division had been making a parallel drive to reach the same objective. The 4th moved in and captured the city the next day while we captured an airfield on the outskirts. The Division remained in the vicinity of dorms for several days. We were kept busy with maintenance and outposting the Rhine.
In Napoleon's Maxims it is stated that looting is the worst thing for an army. This was recognized by our higher commanders and "looting" as such as strictly taboo. No good soldier would disobey an order and all our men were good soldiers so obviously there was no looting. Fortunately for us, as progressed into Germany and Austria the enemy troops we met were equipped with a good many things which were the same as the civilian item except that it had been modified a little to make it useable by the German Army. Also in almost all the towns we came to would be a building with a big sign marking it as the headquarters of the Nazi Party, which we would consider fair game. Therefore, in picking up souvenirs and small items of interest from either the wreckage of the German Army or the headquarters of the "Party" we felt not the slightest pangs of remorse. Such items were "Liberated". For most GI's and not a few officers, liberating was merely a pleasant, profitable hobby and if they could safely combine pleasure business, all well and good.
The most prized objects at first were pistols and the pistols most sought were the Luger and the P-38. Connoisseurs of small arms went in for pre-war Lugers, P-38s with yellow handles, Walther .32s, small .25s and other rarities. The first source of pistols was prisoners who complained bitterly that the GI's didn't give them a receipt for all equipment taken from them. After a bit of house searching it became apparent that an automatic was as much a piece of household equipment in "Der Faterland" as was a carpet sweeper in the United States, Most of these were .32 automatics but now and then a Luger or revolver would show up. As time went on more and more Lugers were picked up and more and more men had two or three pistols, they, the pistols, became a drug on the market.. a simple case of supply and demand. At this point cameras really became popular. Most airplanes. had them and quite a few prisoners carried them. Some the GI's became fussy. They wouldn't go out of their way for anything that didn't have Carl Zeiss's name on it. Afgas and Kodaks they would pick up but only to keep them from falling into Wehrmacht hands. After cameras, binoculars came next in importance and again Carl Zeiss was the man of the hour. Soldiers looked down their noses at six power GI glasses when they could get eight power 'Kraut' field glasses.
Separate from specialized liberating, came the pot-luck or "take-what-you-can-get" variety. In going through Party headquarters' desks were given more attention than dark basements and attics. Only enemy soldiers were likely to be found there. Upon entering a headquarters the usual procedure was to kick the door open, be ready for anything and then, if no opposition presented itself, go through drawers and closets. In these places, anything might be found and usually was. There might be cameras, pistols, binoculars, medals, Nazi daggers, jewelry, uniforms, food, flashlights, liquor, canned fruit, or anything imaginable. Special attention was given to the food and drink line. After all, we must eat. So a half dozen eggs might be carried for miles, cognac fitted into the pockets of the field-jackets. If the half tracks were close by, the canned fruit, black bread, jam, potatoes, chickens, onions, and cooking utensils immediately changed hands. Many a C-ration supper was helped along by a bottle of cognac and eggs sunny-side up.
When the center of a town and the business district was to be searched, men would volunteer for perhaps the first time in their lives. Taverns and Gasthauses were always searched thoroughly and the beer sampled carefully.
At one time or another, a GI's conscience would ask him whether it was right to do such things and he would often think to himself how much he would hate to have such things happen to his home and city. These thoughts would usually be dismissed with, 'Hell, it's German, isn’t it?" or "Look what the Germans did to the other countries." In the strict sense of right and wrong, souvenir hunting was undoubtedly wrong but then again, in combat, a man's mind doesn't dwell too long on the correctness of a thing before doing it and an Infantryman gets few enough compensations from war. Liberating is just one more thing that comes with wars and will have to be accepted by the vanquished as another good reason for not fighting another war. For--"To the Victor belongs the spoils "'
THE LIGHTNING-LIKE SMASH ACROSS GERMANY
After having a short break near Worms, orders came for moving across the Rhine. We moved out in the evening but after getting in position for march the orders were changed so we spent one more night in the billets we had. The following morning, March 28th, we crossed the Rhine under a heavy smoke screen. Most of the fellows were looking for anything to happen and all the tracks had a good supply of nerve compound that had been acquired from the town we left.
After crossing the famous Rhine from which the occupying Army of World War I had watched we moved on through Oppenheim, Darmstadt, and many other smaller towns. All had been well taken care of by the Air Force.
We spent our first night at an airstrip near Hanau which had also caught plenty of hell from the boys above. We moved out the following morning, cross-country as usual, through fields where mud was quite a hazard to the vehicles. We enjoyed a trip with little action but, March 31st, when we were nearing Fulda it seemed as though the Krauts tried to slow down the pace we were setting. We coiled on a hill overlooking the city of Fulda in the distance and watched our artillery pound it. The P-47s also came in for their act of the show and, in closing, did a few wingovers for us. We moved on, by-passing the flaming city, and spent the night several miles on down the road. Here we outposted the town of Mittelsdorf. That night we found plenty of eggs and really cooked up a good meal.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, we started going places. As usual the objective was changed and we had a field day in the collection of Krauts. General Dager, who had spoken to us before we crossed the Rhine and told us to do more shooting, would have been well pleased by that day's work. Many towns were left burning and the rear of the column could hardly get through. We took two towns where the Germans had had training sites and barracks but not too many soldiers were left From here to Oberhof it was just the mere formality of a road march.
Here at Oberhof we were nearing a Nazi stronghold so the resistance was stiffened. We approached Oberhof on April 3rd, a cold day with snow still on the ground. We were waiting for the engineers to remove a road block when the word came for Elmore's boys to dismount for action. We walked up the road past "C" Co.'s tracks to a place near where "C" Co. was pinned down by sniper fire. Here we deployed and really woke up the country-side. Going through the patch of woods everyone was firing. We moved into the town which had been heavily shelled. As we moved on through the town many prisoners were taken. A grenade, well placed in a house, caused quite a bit of confusion among the occupants. They started out the back door but some GI must have remembered the old story back in the States--knock on the front door, run to the back door, and see how many come out. Several Krauts did start out the back of the house but a volley in their general direction put them back in. As neared the end of town more were coming out. About a dozen were coming in from the right when they saw us and stopped as though thunder-struck. Two started to run after being invited to "Kommen Sie hier" and that caused the others to become panicky. They all started running and that meant "curtains" for the whole crowd.
Next, was outposting the town and what a place to outpost. I don't think there was a dull moment all the time we were there. A small counterattack the next morning and then things settled a little bit. Picking up pistols and the usual stocking up of wine and whatever else they had to offer was very much in order. Many a story will always be told of Oberhof. Here, also our task force was the deepest of any Allied penetration on the Western Front. We were- it was rumored - -waiting for the 4th Armored to catch up with us.
April 7th we left Oberhof, nothing exciting happening until we reached Cobourg. There we coiled near the city while the artillery threw a few big ones in and the boys from above did their bit. That night the first platoon entered the town on a combat recon patrol. Three Krauts and two badly scared civilians wore brought back. We took a short break before moving on. Seems as though the farther into Germany we went the less resistance we encountered.
Melkendorf was our next break. There we ran into large stores of food and clothing. Everyone had his fill of eggs and there seemed to be quite a number of leather Kraut flying suits come into our possession. We moved on to the famous city of Bayrueth for a few days; however, there were no concerts at the Wagner Opera House for us. The next stop of interest was the famed panzer school, the Ft. Knox of Germany, near Grafenwohr. We had an enjoyable stop here, blowing up stored ammo and also many light tanks and other vehicles.
April 22nd we were nearing Nurnberg. From here to near Cham there was nothing exciting. We had orders to hold fire one morning as there were many Hungarians in the woods who wanted to surrender so we watched them flock in. Near Cham however, we had our first sight of slave laborers, There were, thousands of them on the highway being forced along ahead of us by SS. We cleared a small wooded area and then proceeded to the city of Cham where we caught up with a goodly number of the super men. We spent the night in Cham where good chow was obtainable by all.
Regen was the next place to clean out. Here we met with more resistance than at any other place since leaving Oberhof. Several tanks were knocked out and our casualties were higher than usual. The town was burning fiercely as the result of muc1; shelling but one Pfc. Witruk, still seemed to feel the evening chill. So he built himself a fire in the street near a blazing building to get warm.
Two days later we were in Waldkirchen. In this town Capt. Fabrick found he had some railroaders. We spent two days there and there was much discussion as to where we would go. We also heard rumors of large concentrations of German armor ahead of us.
At l430 hours on April 30th we crossed into Austria. From here on we began to think we were footsloggers and not in an armored unit as we did plenty of walking in the clearing of woods. It was very cold and even snowed the first few days of May. At Zwettel we used our secret weapon---a P.A, system on a light tank. The Germans in, and near the town took heed to what was spoken to them and surrendered-no harm done. We moved onto Gallneukirchen. Our P.W. enclosure here was over flowing before night and by the following morning there were so many Krauts around that we had difficulty in handling them.
On May 5th someone started a rumor that the war was over so to celebrate the occasion, volley from M-1s and pistols was fired. However, it was Just a rumor. May 7th we moved to the concentration camp, Mauthausen, the hell on earth, where V-E day found us doing guard duty at the camp itself. (The inmates were in a terrific state of riot and confusion.)
'B' Company’s combat days in the E.T.O. were over.
On May 6, 1945 our half tracks rolled in Mauthausen Concentration Camp and there Company 'B' learned more of the efficient work of the German SS troops and the Nazi regime. Camp Mauthausen was a sharp contrast to the peaceful pastoral Danube which lay at its feet. The guests at Mauthausen were a cosmopolitan group---all nationalities races, and creeds represented. Their common bond was their misery and the fact that had disagreed with the Nazi philosophy.
According to the dying statement of Herr Zieries, the commandant of Mauthausen and several other similar camps, the largest number of inmates in Mauthausen at one time was 17,000.
Their welfare was constantly watched. When one man was in danger of overeating by asking for two portions of soup, and SS guard handed the twelve year old son of Herr Zieries a gun. The little offender. This little lad and his hunting dog were great favorites in the camp. The dog would point at some lucky person and Junior would shoot him.
Physical conditioning was stressed in Mauthausen's program for its inmates. It might take form in having a group race up and down the one hundred-eighty steep narrow quarry steps for an indefinite period of time. For those who faltered a beating with a club or strap made the game more lively. Then another game was making inmates jump from a two -hundred foot cliff into the quarry. If one did not succeed in killing himself the first time, he got another try.
Mauthausen had a big turn over and in order to make room for more guests the SS guards were given a daily quota of persons to kill. This work had to be completed and a report turned in before retreat each night. It was left to the imagination of the guards as to what fiendish manner they chose to murder their charges. Starvation and disease took their daily toll of lives.
On our arrival there were may corpses that had not been disposed of. To add to these, more were dying from malnutrition and disease despite all the efforts of our medics to save them. To aid in burying these skeletons, persons from the nearby cities of Linz and Urfahr who had been strongly declaring themselves as anti-Nazis were brought to Mauthausen as a burial party. They returned from the detail with dazed, unbelieving expressions as to what they had seen. All the leader of the grave digging detail, a businessman from Linz, had to say was, “I am ashamed of my people.”
One of the many accommodations Mauthausen offered was showers. On one shower day two hundred Czechoslovakian women were taken from heir quarters and towels were issued to them. It was their turn at the showers. In the anteroom there was a dentist to inspect their teeth for any work that might have to be done. Any woman with gold fillings in her teeth was marked with an ”X”. The innocent women then hurried into the showers and anxiously glanced at the sprinklers, waiting for them to be turned on. They were turned on and gas sprayed out as the women frantically tore at their skin and pulled their hair. The work that was to be done on the women’s teeth was later attended to – their gold fillings were removed.
On cold as well as hot days a select group was led into the refrigerator to cool off and in a matter of time became frozen corpses. Near the refrigerator was the butcher room. It had a drain in the cement floor. Its only furnishing was a table with a water faucet above it. The drain through which the blood could run out made it an ideal room for surgery. A patient could be strapped to the table while water was gushed into his mouth. It was fun to watch the agony the suffered as he was bloated to giant proportions. In order to burn the evidence of their atrocities, the inmates themselves, the largest crematorium the authorities ever had attempted to build was in the making when the arrival of the Americans cut it short.
Those of us who drove through the gates at Camp Mauthausen that bright day in May will never be able to forget the things we saw with our own eyes. Then, if never before, did we believe all the tales of atrocities and barbarisms we had heard. It is hard to watch grown men -- men who were once strong and healthy and handsome -- crying and grubbing in the gutter for a cigarette butt or a piece of food. Those people were literally crazed with hunger and mal-treatment. Parentless children, genius and idiot, crippled and whole, prostitute and mother, college professor and day laborer, clergyman and thief; all were strangely like, set in the mould of everlasting starvation, slavery, torture, death, and grief.
Over the whole camp like a pall hung the stench of filth and disease, death and human misery. Piled in several places, and so scattered here and there throughout the camp as though dropped by some giant, nonchalant hand were corpses, most of them emaciated almost beyond recognition.
A hell on earth!
This was Camp Mauthausen,
It so happens that the human mind is not a faultless mechanism, nor even good one when it comes to remembering incidents that date back more than a-few hours or so ago, so, with that in mind, and with my tongue in my cheek, I'm going to set down the activities of the athletics of Company 'B' with a few side lights and humorous incidents from our birth place, Camp Polk, up to our present stamping grounds - Windischgarsten, Austria.
Our arrival at Camp Polk caused no great stir. We were just a mass of humanity, starting on the trail that would lead us to "God only knew where", so naturally some forms of our emotional output went into athletics First a few started tossin' footballs and baseballs and gradually they were joined by more and more until they just had to start a ball game, or else broaden the Company street. Few of those original men are around. We have Paul Sarni, our personnel clerk, who played short field, Alvin Burns, who pitched, Tony Sobotka, who played outfield, John O'Brien, who played outfield, Hal Wolfertz, who played shortstop, Savage, outfield, Livingston, outfielder, Smock, and Eggs, also outfielders, and I'm afraid that’s all. Many are still remembered though. Our original ball team had fairly good success at Polk, but due to the fact that no leagues were in operation then we had no opportunity to prove our mettle. It did help in picking our future teams though, and future teams we did have. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
The boys also started boxing in that dear old camp--no cracks, wise guy--and there we have perhaps the most concrete evidence of the powers of B Company men' The final standings in the division had three men from our outfit on the list. Our Division Champion in the heavyweight class was Tony Czworkowski, who by the way, was never beaten in G.I. competition. Our next Champion was Pat Hernandez, who took it in the middle weight class, and who is with us again, after getting some rough wounds in the shoulder. And last, but not least, was Charlie Hocker, another middleweight who left the outfit after suffering wounds in the Bulge. Old Punchy isn't forgotten though.
"B" Company also had three representatives on the Regimental Basketball team. They were Dimmy Oleinick, Harold Gammon, and Basil Peterson. This was the team that took high honors in the division and in outside competition, and was considered to be the best ever put together by the Eleventh. Bravo! Yep, even in those days the whole Twenty-First, and to be more explicit "B" Company, showed the rest of the division that you can't beat the Infantry. Hmmm!!! Score five points for the Infantry and there will be more to follow.
After going through our maneuvers in Louisiana, the Division moved to Camp Barkeley, Texas, and though the facilities there were pretty swell, snazzy, or what have you, the teams couldn't really get started. This delay was caused by the abundance of furloughs being handed out and the increased work it put on the boys left behind. We did manage to get a good softball team together, but were beaten by our own Twenty-First Medics or, rather by a single man on the Medics who pitched a one-hitter. Wahoo Gammon, getting the only hit. I won't give you the details on the game, but in self defense I will say, he was fast, in fact, damn fast. 'Nuff said. We played quite a few games with that team and even though we didn't win the Championship, we were, and are, proud of them
Basketball barely started there and boxing was out, so I'll casually slide by those two and if there are any complaints on that score address them to B-Bag and they may get around to this sports writer. By demand--and, mind you, not popular demand---and to save my hide from the barbs and complaints of the ping-pong players, poker sharps, and other indoor athletes, and I stress athletes because they have to have something extra to keep them going, I'll remain anonymous.
From Barkeley we hit Camp Ibis and once more, athletics, gave way to work, training, and maneuvers. We had a club but most of our games were intra-company and---but, why go into that, I could mention our other athletic endeavors such as Needles, L.A., and Boulder City, but our wives and sweethearts will be reading this- -God Bless Them---so I'll, leave our dancing abilities out of it. Hmmm!
Here the bow-taking goes to the mass, rather than the team, although our teams did great work, by this I mean that every Joe and his brother was out catching, kicking, passing, chawing, hitting, and running. There wasn't a minute of free time that "B" Company’s area wasn't alive with cavorting G.I.s. Just knocking themselves out for the sheer joy, of sport. There were Tony, Bill, John, Dan, Jim, George, Hal, Al, Lou, and Paul to name a few. But we know how it was so now I'll give the teams their salutes.
Our softball team was so large here that I'm afraid I couldn't pin down players to individual positions without getting a few squawks, so I'll name the squad and be done with it. I'll put down the honorable Fred J. Cushing as something on the team. He was a rabid fan and he did ump a bit, not that it was crooked. He was always there, if not always in the way, so, down he goes, The rest are just going to be a string of names so hold tight!
Here we go---O'Brien, Gammon, Dadasovich, Olk, Cardellicchio---if you can't pronounce it, spit it out, Wolfertz, Savage, Dufour, DeLeo, Beach, Lester, Sarni, Apple, Davis, Smock, Bauder, Grossen, Livingston, Malumphy, Murphy, Prevatil, Sobotka, and our two stellar pitchers, Burns, and Lewallen. Quite a squad but then, they had quite an impressive string of victories, too, so, in numbers there must be asrength.
In Basketball we again furnished almost half of the Battalion Team. Playing on it, besides playing on the baseball team, were Gammon, DeLeo, Oleinick, and Arata. Yes, I guess you could call them Good. Gammon and Oleinick were the backbone of the team: Gammon in the flash and scoring ability and Oleinick in the power and big-boy department. But, although I wish I could, I'm not writing biographies so I'll skip on again.
We had a volleyball team, too, but you'll have to question Fitzgerald on that score. I, myself, couldn't see any sense in it so I'm prejudiced a bad thing for a writer but wait a minute, who's a writer??
Leaving the golden era we hit the dark ages, or our shipment overseas enter the raven and croak for the boys. All wasn't as dismal as that though because, between the rain, we had, and maintained, a very fair football team. Did you notice the subtle change? In the States we played basebal1 and basketball, and then, to prove that we were rough overseas veterans, we played football.
Before I go into the regular team, I want to put in a plug for Company Headquarters, and I hope the rewrite man doesn't cut this out because, as you've guessed, he is from the rival or, rather beaten team, the First Platoon. It seems that the first platoon was getting kind of cocky, so we of Company Headquarters, decided to give them a lesson. We drafted the 1st Sergeant, the Mess Sergeant, the Communications Sergeant, the communications sergeant's aid, the Company Clerk, or what have you, and the 1st Sergeant's aid or, again what have you. This team went out on a field, or, rather, a sea of mud, slid and trampled them to a six to nothing defeat. The best part of it al1 was that the score was made on a fumble by their own big cheese and, after sliding through and being knocked by every man on their team, was finally recovered by one of our men with some nice assistance by the team. May I give the names of that Team?? Thanks. Here goes: John A. Blackburn, Ernest Hopkins, Vernon Garrett, Paul Sarni, Hal Wolfertz, Charlie Eggs, and Arthur Francolino. That's all, brother. Step Down .
Now to the Company Team Once more we've too big a squad to name positions so hold tight. The captain was Gammon, then Dadasovich, O'Brien, Cardellicchio, Wolfertz, DeLeo, Beach, Bauder, Greenberg, Dufour, Duke, Grossen, Livingston, Lynn, Malumphy, Mantel, Mascioli, Mills, Murphy, Niklas, Prevatil, Riley, Holgerson, Oleinick, and again I must mention the Honorable Fred J. Cushing, but I won't make any more cracks about him. After all, he is from New York.
From England we hit the big time, France, the Bulge, the Rhine, Germany, Austria, and finally our haven here, Windischgarsten. But those bit games are being written up by some other would-be sports writers so I'll end this bit of history of Baker Company by taking off my hat to our athletes and Just plain every-day boys who may have aspired but never attained who fell along the rough road and who will never be forgotten by the remaining athletes and plain boys who make up the new Baker Company. They have not fallen in vain.
EXPERT AND COMBAT INFANTRYMEN
This was with its Super Forts, buzz bombs, Sherman Tanks, and other new weapons was more devastating than any war previously fought, but, generals still admit that ground is not taken and their front lines are not marked except by the rugged doughboys. Tankers and pilots get the glory but it is these foot soldiers slugging along beside the roads, keeping lonely out-post, riding the clanking tanks, advancing into direct enemy fire, crossing rivers with or without pontoon boats, sleeping in water soaked fox holes, reducing road blocks, clearing out towns where every dark corner may hide a fanatic enemy, patrolling by night or day into hostile territory, that bear the brunt of war. That little black line on any army's situation map is just GI Joe and his many buddies.
Armored infantry, keeping pace with the racing tanks in its half tracks and peeps, was used for the first time in this war and hit action faster, certainly, and perhaps more often than did any other type of infantry. In the drives to the Rhine and across Germany they were reported fifty miles ahead of foot infantry units coming along behind as support and conducting mopping up operations.
The war department, largely because of the work of Ernie Pyle who always wrote of their troubles and hardships, issued this bulletin approved by Congress 30th June, 1944, granted expert and combat infantryman badges and pay to infantry soldiers who qualified in infantry proficiency and physical endurance tests or whose performance of duty in ground combat against the enemy was satisfactory.
After successfully passing the expert infantry tests the following officers and enlisted men of 'B' Company received their badge in August 1944, at Camp Cooke, California. Incidentally 'B' Company had more qualified expert Infantrymen than any other company in the division. The Expert Infantry Badge entitles the wearer to five dollars a month in addition to his base pay.
1st Lt. Wilbur F, Jones
After entering combat the following officers and EM were presented Combat Infantryman's badge on the 6th January 1945. These awards entitled the wearer to ten dollars a month in addition to his base pay.
Capt. Elmore K. Fabrick
lst/Lt, Adolph V. Karkula
DO YOU REMEMBER?
The coal smoke in the West Virginia railroad tunnels;
The 24 hour passes at Camp Kilmer;
The back breaking hike from the ferry to the pier;
Clipper deck and K P on the U.S.S. Unowho;
The "honey buckets"?;
The girls and beer (?) at Codford, Warminster, and other points on the Salisbury Plain;
Capt. Fabrick's calisthenics in Upton Lovell;
The insect life in the bread we ate crossing the channel - in fact, all the food was delicious, wasn't it?
The mud in our bivouac area outside Cherbourg;
Your first taste of Cognac;
The trip across France - the wine and bread and women and tents;
How good Camp Sissone looked that snowy night of December 23rd;
The Christmas services and the seriousness of your thoughts about that time;
Our Christmas dinner---in the field---your first combat fox hole;
Our first air raid (it turned out to be a jettisoned gas tank from a P-38);
Our bivouac area the night before our first attack;
The first dead Krauts you saw;
The confusion during that first day;
Your thoughts when you knew those shells were aimed at you;
The amount of praying you did and the resolutions you made;
The way you saw the New Year in Chenogne;
"Hello Elmore two, message for Elmore";
How bitterly cold it was -how tired and scared you were;
How wonderful the 17th Airborne and then Au Chene looked to you;
The taste of the hot breakfast that first day in Au Chene;
The appearance of the inside of your half track;
All the times you had the GI's;
"Bed check Charlie";
That night on the road January 12th;
The feeling that I'll get it sure this time;
Capt Fabrick at the head of his company;
Your thoughts when you killed your first man;
The way you felt when your buddy died;
The day we attacked two tanks with nothing more powerful than a LMG;
The "long" break at Champs;
The first replacements we got there;
How pleasantly surprised you were when we didn't even see any Germans;
The second break in Massul---a big bunch of replacements;
The day the thaw started;
The wicked night we entered Heckhuschied; .
The night attack on the Siegfried - the booby traps;
The weather on that hill on the Siegfried Line;
The artillery---the fox holes with running water;
That nice warm pillbox that nobody could get in long enough;
The night the shell hit the kitchen;
Capt Fabrick's and Fague's bicycle trips back to Heckhuschied;
How glad you were when the 63rd relieved us;
Outpost duty in Leiler, Luxembourg;
Our break there---more replacements;
The walk past Prum;
How much easier the fighting suddenly became and was from then on in;
The first German town we ever captured--how scared the Kraut civilians were;
The looting you did from then on in;
Kommen Sie hier---Kommen Sie aus;
The Kyll River crossing---the third platoon pinned down all afternoon;
The night bridgehead;
The long night march to CCA's bridgehead;
Your bewilderment at the first breakthrough---you couldn't figure it out;
The long lines of Kraut prisoners walking down the road;
Mach Schnell - Hande hoch;
The soft drink factory;
The short break in Glees;
The second drive to Worms;
The way the 4th Armored always got the best write-ups;
The "Prepare for dismounted action" order that you came to hate;
The days you had letters from home---the days you didn't;
The PW enclosure we started with 300 Krauts-~ there were 3000 by the end;
Colonel Yale in his peep;
The number of times you climbed that hill at Wassungen;
The cold nights and all the guard there;
The rumors about being "cut-off" you heard;
The leather flying suits---do you still have yours?;
Outposts---any night, every night;
The first platoon's night patrol into Coburg;
How cold it can be on the back of an M-4 tank;
The day we saw all the slaughtered slave-workers on the road;
The rage and pity you felt at their miserable conditions;
Cham---the apartments with electricity and running water;
The days you were farther east into Germany than any other American soldier;
The eggs you ate;
How low Plummer flew in his peep;
"This is Gut six";
Waldkirchen---the railroaders from the first platoon running that locomotive;
The JU-88 that "the ack-ack shot down"---tell that to the boys of "B" company;
The day we crossed the Austrian border;
How you wondered when it was going to end;
The day you heard the Krauts in Italy surrendered;
Camp Mauthausen---all the guard you pulled there;
May 8th---it seemed just like another day;
All the ammunition you shot;
The worrying and bitching you did about your points and the point system-- are you still worried?;
How nice it was to get back to a regular life again;
The passes to Paris and England and Gmunden and the Riviera;
The cigarette supply;
The dead horses and dead men you've seen;
The towns the 11th has destroyed;
The most tiring and exciting and thrilling days of your life;
The men you knew who gave their lives;
The friends you made in the 11th Armored Division;
The pride you had in the 11th!
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
In a front line Infantry company each man should receive at least a Bronze Star. Every man did his job and did it well but awards have been given to a few individuals who were outstanding and who displayed gallantry and heroic action beyond the call of duty.
The Silver Star is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Army, distinguishes himself by gallantry in action.
The Bronze Star is awarded to any person, who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Army of the United States on or after 7 December 1941 distinguishes himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial fight, in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States. The services rendered which may warrant the award of this medal must be accomplished with distinction.
The following men have been awarded the Silver Star:
Captain ELMORE . FABRICK
The following man was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously:
Sgt Edwin J. Fraley
The following men have been awarded the Bronze Star:
1st Lt ROY C. STRINGFELLOW
T/Sgt Frank C. Hartzell Jr.
V-E Day and 4000 miles away from home. What did a person feel and think on a day like that when the official statement from General Eisenhower's Headquarters was read to the company ? Time turned back 127 days to our first day in combat and then swiftly, in thoughts that raced, was brought back to the present. The Bulge praying, freezing nights in fox-holes, artillery, screaming meemies, burning towns, and dying men. Black-out marches over ice-covered roads when it took fourteen hours to go twelve miles, Bastogne, the Siegfried Line, with its pill boxes, booby traps, more artillery, and mortar fire. Water filled fox-holes and mud, knee deep mud, that stuck to everything. Luxembourg and lonely outposts, towns with unpronounceable names. The Prum River and the breakthrough to the Kyll River. More black-out marches, days riding the “big boys". The first time deep in enemy territory. Then the big rush to the Rhine which was days of riding tanks and half tracks through burning towns or--where we met no resistance---peaceful little villages, more rain and then dust. White flags and eyes peeping from behind lace curtained windows. Long lines of POW.s,. old men young kids--.all of them tired and dirty and ragged. So these were the supermen!! After that another jump to the Rhine through the Moselle pocket and the same thing all over again. The airfield at Worms and our first visit by the Luftwaffe. Here too, was our first opportunity to see the effect of large scale air raiding by the "glamour boys".
Across the Rhine on a pontoon bridge and onto the "sacred soil". Darmstadt and Hanau on the autobahn both cities devastated by bombing. Fulda, then Oberhof where we were fifty miles ahead of the supporting Infantry. Rain, mud, and then dust: great, thick, choking clouds of it. Day after day, on tanks and in tracks. Fanatical, moderate, no resistance from the enemy. Cobourg, Bayreuth, Cham, Regen, and across the border into Austria. Another country: how much longer to go? May 5th 1945, Gallneukirchen, the town full of krauts but taken without firing a shot.
Then Mauthausen concentration camp on the banks of the beautiful, Blue Danube. What a contrast! About one of them has a lovely song been written--the other was full of death: grim naked bodies piled like cord wood: the gas chamber: men and women in rags, too weak and sick to even eat, although they were dying from starvation.
And now it was over! No more of this grim business---at least, not for a while. There was still the C.B.I. and Japan but these were too far away to think about just now. A great feeling of relief came over everyone as though a giant had lifted some great weight from our shoulders. The only words to express such a feeling were, "Boy, I made it".
Immediately following the end of hostilities the men looked to new things for recreation---or should we say, began to find some relaxation and recreation after months of work and hardship. Quotas were given for passes to Paris and furloughs to the French Riviera as well as England. with the usual G.I. genius and initiative a motor boat appeared and trips were taken up and down the Danube River which by this time was discovered to be not blue, but a brownish, yellow color. In these early days the non-fraternization order was still in effect, but the G.I.'s learned the necessary words and phrases to become acquainted with the local Frauleins.. Such expressions as "Kommen Sie hier." Wo gehen Sie?" "Schlafen", and "Spazieren" were soon known by the company Casanovas. Another diversion was given the company when the 130th Field Hospital, with thirty American nurses, moved into Mauthausen. Here was the golden opportunity to talk to a real, live American girl, who could actually understand our slang and G.I. language.
The point system took the first members of our company when, June 17th 1945, Woodford B. Workman and John Konoz left for the States to be discharged. These men were the first of many others to follow.
The division was given a new assignment and the company moved to the town of Windischgarsten, Austria in the Austrian Alps This picturesque winter and summer resort was to be our home for the next few months. Three day passes were given to the division rest camp located about fifty miles away at Gmunden. Here the boys could enjoy swimming, boating, athletics, and a ride on a cable car to the top of one of the highest mountains in the vicinity. Ice cream, excellent chow, and shows each night were some of the other attractions. In addition to this the boys established their own recreation center at Gleinkersee, a few miles from Windischgarsten. Here the company boat was launched, a float was built, and the G.I's went in for aquaplaning, swimming, and diving. Company softball and volleyball teams were organized and they participated in the Battalion League.
It is said that all things must come to an end and this was what was to happen to our organization. Due to the redeployment plan our company was to be broken up as was the whole division. On July 10, 1945 the first big shipment left for the States to be re-deployed to the Pacific theater. This was hard to take, after being together for two and a half years through basic training, two maneuvers, and then combat. Old buddies, friends since our first days at Camp Polk, were to be separated. But this was the Army and it was accepted as part of what was necessary to bring peace to the world.
Our last military formation is to be on August 15th to celebrate the Third Anniversary of the activation of the 11th Armored Division. As these words are being written, however, tremendous and world-shaking events are happening so perhaps we will not be completely broken up as is now planned.
At any rate, although our role in the Allied march to Victory may not have been large we nevertheless feel that "B" Company 21st Armored Infantry Battalion has done its part in the total defeat of the greatest menace the world has ever known. Our history in the annals of the United States Army, though not lengthy, is without a single blemish.
We were a good outfit. Damn Good!!