2nd Platoon, A Company, 56th Engineer Battalion
Let's go back a few years to find out how these men became soldiers, what outfit they joined, how they trained, how and where they fought and where they were when all hostilities ceased in Europe.
On August 15, 1942, the 11th Armored Division was activated in Camp Polk, Louisiana. The 11th Armored Division consisted of a number of Battalions and units. The 56th Armored Engineer Battalion, at that time consisted of a Headquarters Company, four line Companies "A", "B", "C" and "D", and one Bridge Company or "E" Company. In all cases, each line platoons were called the First, Second, and Third Platoon. Each Platoon was again cut down to a First, Second and Third Squads.
The story of the Platoon and Company referred to above is the Second Platoon of Company "A", of the 56th Armored Engineer Battalion.
Other than a few cadre men from the 3rd and 8th Armored Divisions, most of the men in Company "A" were inducted into the Army between September and December 3 of 1942. Exceptions were those men who joined the 56th Armored Engineers at a later date or as replacements when the outfit was in Europe. "A" Company started with twenty cadre men and was completed with two hundred men from induction centers. With discharges and transfers by the time we left Camp Cooke we only had sixty-five of the original two hundred and twenty men. At the ending of our story in the E.T.O., we now have fifty-eight men of the original two hundred and twenty men.
Camp Polk was situated in Louisiana, surrounded by tall pine trees the roots of which were smothered by swamp. The mosquitoes, used as P-47 planes on tactical problems, were also a nuisance when not on duty. What a job to sleep at night! What a spot! Other than those men who have homes in Louisiana and there are few, we believe that the best thing the United States Government can do for the moral of the people living in the other forty-seven states, is to give it back to the French and Indians.
We received our basic training in Camp Polk, learning how to dress right, how to do a left face, how not to talk to an Officer, and a number of other army procedures which we didn't believe were necessary in order to shoot an enemy with a gun. However, in time we either learned automatically or were forced to act by the mere mention of a Court Martial and that is when the soldiers developed a new disposition called "GRIPE".
On New Year's day, the beginning of the year 1943, many of these men will recall getting up at 0400, walking several miles to the rifle range, waiting about two hours for the mist to rise, and then finally getting their chances to fire the M -1, always waiting for the commands, "Ready- on the right, ready on the- left, etc." That same afternoon the entire battalion went to the airfield for a division review. It was hot, about 85 degrees and the hottest New Year's most of us had ever experienced. The sun beat down ---we were perspiring and irritated, so we griped a little in formation. Result ---after we were back in the Company area, Sgt. Latawice, gave us what is known as a "Rat Race". After it was all over we really had something to "gripe" about. What a-New Year's that was.
January, February, and March of 1943, were bitterly cold in Louisiana. The chill winds blew right through you. We had many three day problems near the camp, getting a taste of living in the open under vigorous conditions.
Some of the fellows received their first furlough home that spring and when they returned to camp, there was plenty talk of home.
In June of 1943, we participated in the Louisiana and Texas Maneuvers. Some of the fellows will never forget those maneuvers. The Engineer Slogan at that time was "Corduroy, Corduroy, more Corduroy". We can call ourselves professionals at fixing by-passes-----by hand. We did manage to build a few bridges too.
Here are a few important happenings and sayings during our stay in Louisiana: We won't ever forget the night Byrd fell cut for fire drill with "Just" his gas mask. And we won't forget the time Berno went into the Mess Hall and said, quote, "I just cawnt stand Ham-m, I cawn only eat Pan-n cakes", unquote. Or those famous sayings "Blow it out of your barracks bag" which was the stock retort to most any query. "Don't let him pull his rank on you", was another. On maneuvers "Oh my aching back'' really was appropriate and of course we were all "Sad Apples". We just can't forget Machete swinging Lt. Martinson, who made it quite difficult for peep driver Gallagher.
We left Louisiana on September 3, 1943, (what a blessing) and after going by both train and truck convoy, we took refuge in Camp Barkeley, Texas. This was near a small jerk water city of Abilene, almost in the center of Texas. (Incidentally the writers come from other states - - so need more be said?). H. O. Brown, J. W. Gray, J. H. Smoot and J. R. Warner know about the glories of Texas.
A few of the men had furloughs home and some had three day passes to Ft. Worth and Dallas about 150 miles away. The men really liked it in Camp Barkeley although our time was well occupied by mine and demolition schools not forgetting bayonet training. Then, we built a half dozen target ranges and a few miles of roads.
We were going strong when a month later in the dead of night we boarded a Pullman train and were off to a new camp. We left all our vehicles behind.
Leaving Camp Barkeley on October 9th, we had a two day, train ride through New Mexico and Arizona. This time it was Camp Ibis near Needles, California. Here we go again - - what a spot! California has some wonderful country but around Needles not ever a doodle-bug can live there more than six months. We must be tough because we stood it for three and a half months.
The 9th Armored Division's vehicles which we secured from them on the Desert, were so many piles of junk, it took us two months to ready them for Desert Maneuvers.
"D" Company having been disbanded, we had several new men in our platoon, Hohenthaner and Austin among them, to break in. "E" Company was now the 995th Treadway Bridge Company and attached to Corps instead of Division.
We had to make a thirty mile hike to keep us from wishing for a transfer to the Infantry. Some of the nicer aspects of this period were three and five day passes to Los Angeles, Hollywood or San Francisco. Of course a few of the men went to Las Vegas, Nevada and had their first encounters with "one armed bandits".
It was a good time for all who went to Yuma, Arizona and threw a pontoon bridge over the Colorado and a beer party the last night we were there. Fisher and Gallagher had us in stitches with jokes around the campfire.
We celebrated New Year's on the Desert and some of the men went on passes to Boulder City or Las Vegas.
A couple of instances occurred on Desert Maneuvers which we shall always remember. During one of our tactical problems we had to crawl on our hands and knees for chow to keep out of sight of the enemy. During another tactical problem, Capt. Blackburn warned the Company to be quiet, not to talk loud and was whispering the plan of attack to the men - - when out of the bottom of his throat, Sgt. Brand bellowed "Hey you guys, bring them there gas cans to the gas truck".
After a month of dusty maneuvers all over southern California we were ready to ship out after a week's solid work loading the Divisions tanks and half-tracks. We convoyed 450 miles to Camp Cooke near Lompoc, California. From the Olive Drab barracks we had splendid view of the broad blue Pacific Ocean.
A couple- of weeks went by and a "good deal" came up. Special men were needed for a war show in San Diego. Our Platoon under Lt. Tobe and -S/Sgt. Meyer were chosen to go. We spent a grand two weeks in San Diego and the War Show was a huge success.
Passes to Hollywood and Los Angeles, 160 miles away were to be had on weekends. Many of us went to San Francisco to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate---so it wouldn't look new in '48. Some of us had furloughs home. R. W. Gray didn't relish the long trip to Jersey by train so he took a plane home.
We weren't bothered by rain at all, not a drop fell from May 10 to September 16, the day we left.
The newly'' named "Thunderbolt" Division was by now well seasoned with Louisiana and Desert Maneuvers. Now sharpened by house to house combat range problems and 'assault tactics on the California coast, we were at last making ready to move overseas.
Saws hummed busily, air compressors ran diligently and men hammered feverishly day and night. In record time the Divisions trucks, guns, field ranges, radios, tools and thousands of odd pieces of equipment and weapons were waterproofed and crated for shipment. "T. A. T." and "1096 V" were our bywords. Remember the dog who almost gave our secret away. Yes, someone had painted 1096 V on his back and Colonel lnge saw it.
It was on September 16, that we had our last look at Camp Cooke as we boarded our Pullman train and pulled out of Camp. It was a six day ride across the U. S. A. We passed through many States' and several of the fellows were within a stones throw of home. However, we were not allowed off of the train except in certain cities where we had calisthenics along sidings or station platforms. Certain very, very tired muscles needed exercise.
On the night of September 21, 1944, we pulled into Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, to hear the sound of taps echoing over the camp. It was a busy six days we spent here, learning to abandon ship, lectures and' movies on everything from sex to shooting and a ride on "Miss Choo-Choo Johnson", a dummy train. We even had a complete physical examination which took each man about fifty-seconds to become P. O. E. qualified. If the Army had supplied us with track shoes, we could have made it in thirty seconds flat.
Some of the more fortunate among us were able to get home once or twice on short passes to see their folks and say farewell. Others had passes to see America's largest City, New York. ~
On September 28, 1944, we boarded the train in Camp Kilmer and in no time at all we were at the Hoboken Ferry which took us to Pier 52 over in Manhattan. There was a brief interlude while the band played and the A. R. C. served us coffee and do-nuts. Then hoisting our packs we trudged up the gangplank with a pounding heart to board and go deep into "Apple Compartment" in the bowels of the U. S. S. Hermitage.
During the eleven days at sea, most of us had our fill of the ocean. There was an unending panorama of gulls, waves and ships in formation. Calisthenics on deck, abandon ship drills, reading, church services, prize fights between Army and Navy personnel and "sanitation" details gave us plenty to do. The chow was very good and we were fed twice a day, which proved too much for some of us. For the most part we stood it very well especially the old "salts" G. P. Gallagher and G. I. Parker. The P.X. line wound all over the ship and often as not you would wind up in the chow line instead of the Ships' Stores. The "Navy Casino" provided an outlet for excess energy - - and cash as well. It was run by crew members in the hole of the ship, there was food, drink and of course gambling, however many of the men went there just to get extra chow. A percentage was deducted from each hand of cards, however patronage was excellent and almost a full squad from the Third Platoon was "captured intact", when the Officer of the Day pulled a surprise midnight raid on the joint.
On the morning of October 9th, we had our first glimpse of land. Excitement was rife as many thought it was Ireland, a lot more England and a very few still thought that France laid there to the north of us. It was late in the afternoon as we passed the Isle of Wight and sailed on up the harbor to Southhampton, England. We stayed aboard ship that night. Next day at 1500 we happily marched down the gangplank to solid land once more. We boarded a train at the docks and then heading north out of Southhampton we had our first glimpse of the picturesque English country side. It was dark as we pulled into Melksham in Wiltshire county and we will never forget the two mile hike in the dark from the station to Sandridge Park, especially the last few hundred yards up the steep hill. We really knew the United States soldier was the best and "most" fully equipped soldier in the world.
Here we spent five weeks of lectures, classes, hikes and readying our equipment for inevitable combat. Passes to London, Bristol and Salisbury were in the books so most of the men had their first view of "Big Ben", "The Tower of London", "St. James Cathedral", "Westminster Abbey" and "Piccadilly Circus". The most interesting to us were our first sights of actual warfare, namely the many bombed out ruins in the English Cities.
"Any gum Chum?" Was a new phrase we learned from the English Children.
Moving to Codford Camp No. 2, our final preparations were even more rushed as we made things battle ready. Our last and most memorable relaxation-was a battalion dance at which we had our last glimpse of real, clean fun. The vehicles were shipped ahead of us to cross the channel. Some of us sent home last minute letters through the NAAFI Club in the camp. John McHugh one of our original men now with 277th Combat Engineers dropped in for a last minute visit and wished us all luck. Our last night was spent in restless speculation on what the future held in store for all of us.
December 14, 1944.
At 0430 we were hurriedly awakened end after hastily dressing we had our last meal in Colford Camp. Going back to our Neissen Huts we rolled our bedrolls, packed up our equipment, trucked it all out on the road and then of course we policed and cleaned up the area and huts as much as we could. As it was still dark in the cold gray dawn we didn't do too good a job.
They gave us a couple of sandwiches for our lunch and at 0730 we started for the Colford Railroad Station. (Our vehicles had all gone ahead the day before, occupied by our drivers and assistant drivers and they were scheduled to cross the Channel on L. S.T. Boats.) It was about one and one half miles to the station and quite a hike with all our ammunition and other necessary junk in our packs and belts.
After an hour or so waiting, our train pulled into the Station at 0930. It took our battalion about ten minutes to load up End then we took off, headed south.
Going through Salisbury we took a few pictures and Buch our Photographer took some movies of the cathedral. This cathedral has the tallest spire in all of England, rising majestically a little over four hundred feet above the green lawn at its base.
By 1045 we were in the Southhampton Railroad Station, passed the dock from which we unloaded when first landing in England. After dismounting we lined up in columns of two's and started out for a marshalling camp (sort of a P of E). We saw quite a lot of bomb damage but none of it as extensive as in London, Bath or Bristol. We walked for over an hour passing many civilian homes which were occupied by British Tommies. It was in this city that we saw more British soldiers then in any other place at any time.
It was a long hard, hot walk and the fellows were all cussing and raising hell. A baker's wagon stopped and he threw a couple loaves of bread to the fellows in our Platoon, it was fresh and really tasted good.
Around 1230 we finally got to the camp. It was in a park in the suburbs with houses on one side. The macadam roads were nice and hard of course, but to get to our six man pyramidal tents we had to wallow through a sea of mud. However, it was nice and dry in the tents and only ten of us to a tent in army cots. Very cozy!!?
For dinner we had C-rations, (meat and beans with hard biscuits) and ready made coffee. We went back to our tents and managed to scrape up a little more food, which we were saving to satisfy our hunger. After dinner we fixed a fire because it was getting cold, and foggy.
At 1745 some of the fellows in our Platoon decided to go to a movie. It was in an extra long Neissen Hut. Italian Prisoners of War and a few Quartermaster Negroes had already flocked in and by 1830 the place was packed. The projector was operated by a Navy lad as was the rest of the camp doings. We saw the "Hairy Ape", which everyÖone enjoyed very much, it was a really good show. Even the Italians who couldn't understand a word of it, enjoyed the show. After the movie we returned to our tents and brewed a pot of coffee.
For lamps we used an evaporated milk can, filled it with gasoline and stuck a rope down into the can. It worked! We went to bed early with thoughts of Louisiana and the Desert maneuvers. Not much speculation went on as to where we were going. We were all sure it would be France of course.
December 15, 1944.
At 0530, we were rudely awakened by our First Sergeant Brand, who bellowed out "Get up and pack up by 0630, we are moving out!" What a surprise, we thought we would be in camp at least two days. We got up, had breakfast and were ready to go by 0700 and at 0730 we moved out of camp. We took a short cut through the Park and went to the docks by a new route. On the way we saw quite a few bombed buildings which were closer to the docks and that was the reason.
The double-decker street cars or trams sure looked good and were crowded with people on their way to work. Of course, we whistled and yelled at all the girls we saw and we saw plenty of girls. Schroeder, Thorpe, Gildow and Kramer are very good whistlers.
At about 1000 we went through the dock gates - and passed many wrecked houses and railroad yards. We passed by dozens of carloads of the new floating Bailey Bridge. From the looks of things there was going to be plenty to do when we get to where we are going.
Finally along side of a huge freight house we saw our ship. It was British and named "Antonec" an odd name. We were marched inside the Warehouse and there we had to wait while three battalions of our Infantry, 21st, 55th and 63rd, loaded aboard.
The A. R. C. were serving coffee and doughnuts at the far end near the Infantry. A few of us decided to get some doughnuts. When we returned, our Company Commander, Capt. (Blackie) Blackburn, jotted something down in a little red book, which turned out to be the names of Balma, Dippo, Buch, Erger and Cappelein, who broke ranks for the purpose of securing doughnuts "without permission" and forcing him to make us do extra duty aboard ship.
It was about 1100 when we finally were marched up the gangplank. We were all crowded into a lower deck where we had to sit sixteen men to a table and benches. The benches were only a foot apart and the entire deck was covered with them. We thought we were crowded when we came to England on troopships but this was worse.
For dinner we had some watery mutton stew and tea. It was terrible, and our love for the British certainly didn't grow.
The boat itself was quite large, about 450 feet long and 70 feet wide. We had plenty of room on deck to walk around - - when seventy-five percent of the men stayed below deck.
The boat pulled away from the dock about 1300 by two tugs; turned around in midstream and then headed out past the Isle of Wight. We anchored with a few more ships out of the harbor and waited for the remainder of the convoy to assemble.
Extra details, compulsory details, guard regular type and MP guard were quickly assigned to our company.
In the ships store or P. X., they sold us chocolate, cookies, canned sardines and American brand salmons, breakable leather shoelaces and a few other items. Here again, another thing griped us. The lend lease Salmon we sold the British, was resold to us at a gigantic price of fifty cents a can!!!
Sleeping accommodations were anything but comfortable. The fellows flopped on the floor, benches, tables and on anything that looked like a resting place. During the night the guards had to be very careful so as not to step on an arm, leg or face.
December 16, 1944.
At 0400 we felt the gentle rocking motion of the boat as it plowed along. The channel was very calm and none of us got sick, although we were prepared for it with small bottles of seasickness pills.
It wasn't until 0900 when we walked out on deck and there before our eyes we could see the breakwaters of some large seaport. Beyond that we could see a bomb-wrecked town and still farther out the green and cultivated fields and last but not least the distinctive trees and hedgerows of France. We could see several large plane hangers and a field on the western end of the city, the docks and warehouses on the east and north. It was a rectangle shaped harbor.
We passed through the breakwater and between us and the airfield we saw four sunken ships. We could see the masts only on three of the ships while the fourth one looked like it was setting in very shallow water as most of it was in sight. Next we could see many of the warehouses end a huge six story building which had been blitzed and burned, only dead hulks end shells remained.
On the inner dock and breakwater were anchored four United States Ships. Here we saw where the Germans had tried to demolish the huge pier but were not too successful. They also had built up several pillboxes on them.
A United States Navy tug, operated by the French, came up to our boat and a cable was attached and within a few minutes the ship was being hauled between a long dock and another sunken ship toward an empty pier. As we neared the pier we could see much bomb damage which had been repaired. We saw three more sunken ships near the docks. On the docks there were thousands and thousands of cases of C-rations, our principal food here.
It was 1100 when we walked down the gangplank and loaded up in the 1620 the Truck Battalion Vehicles to go to our assigned staging area. The truck drivers told us we were in Cherbourg and that we were going to Bricaquebec for a few days.
At the ends of the piers and along the waterfront we saw gigantic concrete pillboxes built by the Nazis as they expected an attack from the sea. The Yanks however had come in from the rear and the three feet thick thirty feet in diameter pill boxes were upended and perforated like so many large blocks of Swiss cheese.
In the city itself, every building was either bombed or full of shell holes. Everything standing seemed to have been hit and nicked by small arms fire. Here was a typical case of all out warfare and a scene of utter ruin and destruction.
The drivers, who had been around Cherbourg for five months, didn't have a good thing at all to say about some of the French. They called them beggars, moochers and a few other things not suitable for writing. They claimed that the Germans had ruined the people entirely, morally and physically.
There was a fort overlooking the harbor from a high hill which had been shelled till the whole hillside was bared to the bed rock by our warships. All through the city we could see where there had been bitter fighting, even then after five months, the people were just getting things straightened a little.
We rode a long, steep hill along which were many homes pock marked and shelled by house to house fighting. Here and there we saw a battered pillbox, a few gun emplacements and in one place two ruined German Anti-Aircraft searchlights. We also saw several wrecked Nazi 88 Millimeter Guns in excavated emplacements. The people we saw were all pretty ragged and poorly dressed. We saw several Prisoners of War Labor Camps along the road. According to the drivers the best P. W's were the Russians, (the Germans had forced them to fight), because they were the easiest to manage and did the most work.
We stopped in Bricaquebec for about thirty minutes giving us the opportunity to see the town. We saw quite a number of French people, mostly children. The town wasn't hit very much at all and we couldn't see any serious damage. At any rate the oddest thing we did see is the way the Frenchmen would stand facing a building and relieve themselves in the center of the town, while the people walked by nonchalantly.
About 1330 we arrived in our staging area near Bricaquebec. It was just a small apple orchard and all around us were troops from the 63rd Infantry and the remainder of our Battalion. Our drivers and assistant drivers were already in the area when we arrived and our vehicles were a welcome sight because we could relieve our sagging shoulders of about 100 pounds of equipment by loading it onto the vehicles.
After dinner several of the boys took a walk in and around our area were we inspected some German donkey engines and narrow gauge tracks, also some dump carts in a field. In another area we saw some huge iron tetrahedrons used by the Germans as tank obstacles.
That night brought on a heavy rainstorm which many of us will not forget, especially La Buff and Cooper of the Third Platoon. During the night, the strong winds blew a dead apple tree over on their tent, pinning La Buff to the ground with its branches. However, it did not disturb Cooper any, but La Buff frantically tried to awaken his tent-mate so he could be released. Cooper, half asleep, finally stumbled out in the dark, raining night, stood looking around a few moments and remarked, "What time did she fall Chief?" A few minutes later the old buddy had La Buff free and with a little repair work on their tent, they went back to sleep.
December 17, 1944.
We were awakened by our First Sergeant again, blowing his whistle, which was first call for reveille.
What a mess it was outside our tents, water everywhere, several tents blown down and some of the fellows were thoroughly soaked. Darroch and Brown didn't put up their tent and consequently they were well saturated. We wiggled our fingers through the straw underneath our bedrolls and felt an inch of water. Several GI's made the mistake of putting their shoes outside and - - well, you know the rest. Having about two hundred men walking around our bivouac area, and the additional rain which continued to fall intermittently, the once beautiful apple orchard was turned into a muddy morass.
According to the latest orders received that day, we were to be broken into the art of battle, gently. We were informed that we were going to assist the 94th Infantry Division at St. Nazaire. There were about 75,000 Nazis still trapped down there and we were to lay siege on them until they gave up.
December 18, 1944.
It was 0330 when we were awakened by S/Sgt. Brancaglione, calling his platoon to get up. We had flapjacks and coffee and grapefruit for breakfast, which certainly hit the spot. Afterwards, we rolled up our bedsacks and with the rest of our equipment we packed them into our halftracks. All around us the fellows were slipping and falling into the mud, it certainly was messy.
We had to pull out a couple of halftracks and trucks which were bogged down in the mud and just before we were ready to take off we had to load a few boxes of ammunition in our halftracks and Platoon truck.
It wasn't until 0630 when we finally got lined up and started out.
(The 11th Armored Division was composed of a number of units, as the 56th Armored Engineer Battalion, the 63rd, and 55th Infantry Battalions, the 42nd and 22nd Tank Battalions, the 41st Cavalry etc. Therefore, in order to control and operate as a team, these units were placed under a Combat Command. The 11th Armored Division consisted of three Combat Commands, namely; Combat Command "A" or CCA, Combat Command "B" or CCB and Combat Command "R" or CCR (R means Reserve Troops). Under the new Table of Organizations which went into effect while we were in Camp Barkeley, our Engineer Battalion consisted of an "A","B" and "C" Companies classed as line or combat men and a Headquarters Company which handled supplies and administrative details. In almost all assignments "A" Company fought with CCA, "B" Company with CCB and "C" Company with CCR.)
The 56th Armored Engineer Battalion went into the lead, then the 21st, 55th and 63rd Infantry Battalions followed. We passed through La Haye du Punts at 0900 and at 0930 through Lessay. Lessay was terribly bombed and shelled, half of the buildings were demolished. There were hardly fifty window panes left intact in the entire city. It was amazing to see all the people who were still sticking there and trying to make the best of it. As we road along we saw all types of wrecked German and American equipment. German Tigers and our own M-4 Tanks were the most common. We saw at least a half dozen of each between Lessay and Countances. In Countances we saw the same terrible chaos and wreckage as before, especially in northern part of the city. We believe that the newsreels and newspapers haven't shown half of these gruesome sights.
Going through Granville at about 1200 we didn't see too much destruction. However, south of the city we saw at intervals along the road, five M-4s, four M 8s, four halftracks, two peeps, three German Tiger Tanks and two 88 MM guns that knocked out all our equipment. These vehicles had all been knocked out while on the road. On each side of the road were farmlands. The fields were very small and there was no end to those famous hedgerows. It was on this famous Normandy Peninsula that some of the fiercest fighting of this war took place. It was here that General Patton drove his men and armor from the beachheads after D-Day. Without exception, in every town and village the people all waved and cheered as we rode through.
Near Avranches we could see the waters of the blue Atlantic. Down in the bay of St. Malo, we saw the famous Mont St. Michael. Even from where we were, we could see the graceful lines of the famous castle. In Avranches the Allies had bombed and shelled a large railhead until it was completely destroyed, but when we passed through the people had it repaired and operating again. The only telling marks of the war were the fire blackened skeleton of the Railroad Station and the charred goods wagons and freight cars. All around the place were bomb craters and shell holes.
Pentaubault to Antrains to Rennes we didn't see too much building damage. In one place we saw where a German cavalry wagon train of supply vehicles had been strafed and had blown up, scattering clothing end equipment to the winds.
Rennes is a very large city which had been bombed and shelled, however the damage was not too bad, rather mild in comparison to Lessay. Just south of the town was a German PW Camp. Here we saw several thousand prisoners. They were crushing rocks by hand and then about twenty-five of them would gather around a small four wheeled wagon and pull it a half mile to a road which they were repairing. They were supposed to be working!! They were all laughing and smiling as we rode by.
At one other place, some Negro Engineer Troops repairing a section of the road called out to us as we passed, "You don't have to be scared they (the Germans) are all wiped out." We were rather angry at this remark because we knew darn well that there were but a few Negro units on the front lines.
A little farther south we came to a large airport. There were about twenty huge hangers, bent and shriveled by fire. The aluminum and steel were curled and twisted by the fires set off by the Germans as they withdrew. The name of the airport was St. Jacques and we bivouacked on the landing strips. The area of the airport was large as it was used for heavy bombers. It covered about one and one half square miles and had giant revetments for planes, dispersed in all directions. All over the field were huge bomb craters, some of them in rows showing how effective our pattern bombing really was.
Our bivouac area was near one of the bomber revetments and all around us were thousand and two thousand pound bombs. Here and there were scattered remnants of all types of planes. There was a wing, part of a fuselage end the motor mounts of a huge German four motored bomber near where we had our pup-tents. Not very far from us were three aerial bombs. Some of the fellows dried out their blankets and clothes on laminated rafters and girders from the hangers which were laying on the ground. It was 1530 when we pulled into this area and the sun had been shinning brightly all day. Powers, Buch and R. Gray took a few snapshots of the hangers at Rennes and some scene shots in Avranches.
December 19, 1944.
We didn't do very much other than dry out our clothes, cleaned guns and vehicles and rearranged our equipment in the halftracks. We did do a little exploring and found a German barracks all knocked down. A few blood stains here and there could be seen on the floors. We also found a dump of German twenty millimeter and .314 caliber rifle shells, hand grenades, booby traps and thousands of small incendiary bombs. There were several large cases of French rifle ammunition lying around too. Here was a fortune in firearms going to waste. A few curious demolition men, Gray, Buch, Loder and Schnable were soon at work tinkering around and finding out what made certain things tick in the shells and booby traps. We were told that we could write, but, not to mention where we were, what we were doing, why we were there etc. In other words, all we could write is, "feeling grand, wish we were home". That night, some of the fellows from our Platoon went to town for showers, not many, just a few, because we were sure it was a mobile shower unit. It was very foggy and of course they lost their way in Rennes and rode all over the city before they found the place. The showers were in a large building which was a Public Bath House. As a special favor the proprietor opened the Bath House for the Gls. Ordinarily it costs a person twenty francs to take a twenty minute shower. There were two sections, one for Hommes and one for Femmes, each having twenty stalls. These stalls were all tile, inlaid and very beautiful. The best part of it all was the luxuriantly profuse flow of nice hot water. These were the best showers since the soldiers landed in Europe.
The toilet was most unusual, it was three feet square, inset six inches below the floor level, a six inch hole, two thirds of the way back were two raised pedestals to stand on, on each side of the hole. The place was called Public Bathe De Rennes.
It certainly seems strange to run into the people and not be able to talk or understand them. A few of the fellows went to a Cafe and- bought some cognac and cider. Cognac sold at 400 francs per bottle.
December 20, 1944.
We were up for reveille at 0800 and it felt good to sleep for an extra hour. For breakfast we had farina, powdered eggs, powdered milk, canned grapefruit, bread, jam and coffee.
For dinner we had roast beef, raw onions, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, bread, jam, cornstarch pudding and coffee. For supper we had Chile-con-carne, peas, fried potatoes, hot biscuits, butter, canned peaches and coffee.
The food had certainly been delightfully varied, fresh and well cooked. Lest but not least we always had the pleasure of seeing three times a day the smiling faces of S/Sgt. Herman A. Smith, our Mess Sergeant who hails from Louisiana (very unfortunate fellow), but always manages to see that the GI soldier gets his share of food; T/4 Alfred G. Lucaire from Miami, Fiorida, interpreter of many languages and master of none and a good cook; T/4 Leo P. Savage from New York, our bellowing cook who could holler out CHOW-W-W-WW-W so loud that the people in England thought another buzzbomb was on its way; T/5 Ernest W. Bentzen from Sacramento, California, who always prepared the finer arts of cooking, such as pies, puddings and cakes; T/5 Marion T. Johnson from Georgia, assistant cook, who doesn't quite speak like a Georgian, but yet--- T/5 Elbridge E. Ryder, another assistant cook from Brattleboro, Vermont, whose personal habits are quiet and reserved and we (the writers) are having difficulties getting anything on him; Pfc. Jose C. Cordova from Utah, who always got in the cooks way but managed to serve us well; and Pfc. John B. Rosse from Hillsville, Pennsylvania, who helped Cordova get in the way of the cooks. Incidentally, Rosse was a very good man when he was in our Platoon during the Louisiana Maneuvers but S/Sgt. Smith needed a good man in his kitchen.
We dilly-dallied around most of the day, cleaning our equipment, washing clothes and setting off a few of the incendiary bombs.
That night the Captain told us that the St. Nazaire deal was called off. We were to move from Rennes and travel north towards Aachen. None of us cared too much for this change because we knew it was going to be very cold up there.
Pfeiffer from the First Platoon was guarding some German PWs who were digging a garbage pit for our Company. They still had that arrogant attitude and said, "The Germans haven't lost a war yet and their High Command told them that they had secret weapons which would change the course of the war in their favor". They went on to say, "We are going to wait for summer before we try to escape".
December 21, 1944.
We were up at 0400 this day, had breakfast and policed the area around our tents. It was 0730 when we finally pulled out. The 21st Infantry went into the lead and due to some unknown tie-up it wasn't until 0830 when we started through Rennes. The children on the streets were going to school and of course, were waving and throwing kisses at us.
As we rode along we noticed more and more signs of reconstruction and repairs. The people were doing everything from filling bomb craters in pastures to cleaning up loose rubble from the almost completely broken down walls of a large Bank Building.
In Vitre we saw a number of clothes shops, the windows displaying furs and very swanky looking dresses. All the shops were busy and the streets were crowded with people. There were a number of butcher shops with a nice selection of meats. Best of all to our eyes were the delicious looking, nicely browned, two foot long loaves of French bread in the windows of bakeries. Vitre wasn't shelled very much.
Laval didn't suffer much damage, except a few buildings on the outskirts of the city. The city was quite large, with plenty of side streets in addition to the main drag which comprises most of the city as it does in almost all French towns and cities.
Between Laval and Le Mans we saw several dozen abandoned Tiger Tanks which were also burned by the Germans as they retreated. We also saw some of our halftracks which had been grouped and burned. Whenever we saw wrecked and burned up vehicles we would always find a few 88 Millimeter Artillery pieces nearby. In Laval we saw a small wood burning steam engine which was pulling three small baggage cars and three passenger cars. It gave us a race for a few miles, passing us every time our convoy had to halt, (which was every few minutes). The civilians in the cars and the soldiers in the convoy had quite a time cheering each other.
On the west side of Le Mans the buildings were badly damaged as was the Railroad Depot in the heart of the city. It was here that we saw the first French electrified trains. Here too, were all sorts of electric Trolley Busses and transportation seemed to be operating smoothly. The city itself is very large, one of the largest we had been in so far.
Our bivouac area was in a grove of young pines and it seemed as though we were back in Louisiana once more. As a matter of fact, we didn't feel or seem to realize that every hour was bringing us closer to the front and possibly death for some of us. In our opinion it was just another maneuver.
That night however, we loaded our rifles and received orders to shoot anyone who didn't give the countersign. "Apples" was the password. "Raisins" was the countersign.
December 22, 1944.
Again we were bivouacked a few miles out of town. It had rained all day and our bivouac area was very wet. The day before, we were under Pine trees and that day we were under Oak trees. In either place we couldn't get the wood to burn.
One of our T/4's was broken for having his overcoat unbuttoned. Everyone thought it was C. S., especially when we were so near to the battle zone.
Early that morning, someone threw a live round into a fire and the Major who was in our area at the time heard the shot. Our Captain came over and asked the men in our Platoon who fired a shot and of course, no one knew. He immediately had S/Sgt. Meyer fall the platoon in formation and inspected each weapon. Every weapon was perfectly clean and the Captain reported his findings to the Major, stating that no one fired a weapon. That made the Major furious and he told the Captain to inform our platoon that the next time he catches any man playing dumb, he would personally see that he received a dishonorable discharge. It sure is a big joke to us and also made us peeved at his last remark.
We went through Nogent Le Rotrou at 1010 seeing most of the destruction in the outskirts of the town.
Chartres was damaged similar to the town we just passed. Here we saw a Brockway loaded with treadway bridge equipment, along the street, where it had been shelled. Some of the buildings on the east side were damaged. At the outskirts of the city we saw two large windmills on water towers, making the third windmill we had seen up to that time. As we left Chartres the farms suddenly spread out. The fields were very much larger and there were no hedgerows, in fact, it was so flat and regular it reminded us of the fields in lowa, Ohio, Nebraska or Indiana. (What's irregular about Missouri?) The farmlands looked more developed and cultivated that any we had seen so far.
The usual wreckage was seen along the roads, tanks, trucks and artillery pieces. We also saw the sad remains of a plane which had been shot down. It was so mangled we couldn't tell whether it had been friend or foe.
We had a great time giving the children candy, chocolate and gum. They were very happy to get it and would say in delighted voices, "Oo-la-la" and "Merci, Merci".
The older people seemed to be far more friendlier here that the people in Normandy. Even the smallest tots would wave and make the victory sign with their little fingers and smile at us. Of course, some of the Casanovas in our platoon liked the older ones who threw kisses at us.
Some of us went to town that night trading our candy, K-rations, cigars and cigarettes for wine and cognac. Food was worth far more than our invasion money, in fact, we couldn't buy anything with it, they just wouldn't accept currency.
As we headed northeast and away from the coast and ocean it was getting colder. It wasn't very long after that, we had to put on more clothing.
December 23, 1944.
We started on the move at 0645 and made good time to Paris which we entered at 090Q. We rode down Paris Avenue for several miles then branched out and went through the outskirts of the city Passing block after block of new modern eight and ten story apartment houses, we were amazed at both the number and density of them. Occasionally we would see an old home and building. We saw the Eiffel Tower. The stores all looked modern and the windows displayed a good selection of clothing, toys and food. People were hurriedly bustling about shopping on foot and on bicycles. Everyone would stop long enough to look, wave and cheer us on.
We also passed the Paris Zoo and soon after we crossed the Seine.
We drove through Lorient and then Chateau Thierry by 1500. In both places, little damage was done. We crossed the Marne River and also saw the famous World War I monument on the side of a hill.
Throughout the day we steadily gained altitude. We went up on to two more plateaus. The farmlands looked good with large open fields, now and then we would see teams of oxen and at times as many as six of them in a team.
In Vaux a Frenchman gave us a basket of beautiful looking apples when we stopped for a noon meal.
Passed through Reims at 1600, saw railroads in good shape moving U.S. Army supplies. Coming to Sissone at 2000, we took over an old French garrison in a large two story barracks. Several buildings had been bombed, but there were a few good ones left. The day before, we had traveled twenty-five miles farther than we had originally anticipated and we were now but seventy-five miles from the Meuse River.
December 24, 1944.
We were quartered in barracks formally occupied by the 82nd Airborne Division. They had been called up to the front lines a few days before. 0230 we were awakened by our Captain who hurriedly went from one room to another, excitingly shouting out to the men to get dressed and loaded as quickly as possible. We were to go to the Meuse River, which was about seventy-five miles away and CCA was to establish a secondary line of defense about thirty-five miles long, protecting all bridges and bridgeheads.
We left the French Camp at Sissone at 0930. Not very far out of town we passed a British Cemetery, where we saw hundreds of white crosses in perfectly straight rows. That was a reminder of the last war and of things to come.
We passed through Rocroi and another unknown small town along the Meuse River, were we saw many slate and rock quarries, all ruined and deserted. Overhead we saw several hundred C-47s carrying supplies to our besieged American troops at Bastogne. The planes were flying close to the ground.
Today was the first time we had received news regarding the war. We were told that the Germans had made a great counter-attack somewhere in Belgium and that they were steadily approaching Liege and all along the Meuse River. (After a few days we finally gathered enough information and news regarding this counter-attack, which turned out to be the Von Rundstedt breakthrough in the Ardennes. This breakthrough, incidentally was the exact area where the Germans made their successful drive in 1940 eventually conquering Belgium, France etc.)
Thousands of feet overhead we saw hundreds of our Bombers, English and American two and four motored planes, winging their way towards Germany with a load of Christmas gifts for Hitler. It was a wonderful sight to see our air power up there, it gave us a comfortable feeling. Close to Vireux our convoy stopped for a couple of hours. Here we traded again with the people, soap and cigars for bread and cake. It certainly was a nice treat for us as we had a job getting fresh bread from our kitchen.
Up the road from Vireux, dozens of civilian evacuees were riding bicycles, walking or driving wagons with a few pitiful remnants of their personal possessions. They were hurrying as fast as they could go, always scattering to the ditches when a "Red Bail" supply truck would roar by.
At Vireux we crossed an eleven span wooden pile steel stringer bridge constructed by a combat Engineer Battalion in September 1944. It was a beautiful job and at that time each stringer had five pounds of TNT on it, ready to blow if we had to make a hasty withdrawal. We had to stop several times in Vireux and the people who were not leaving their homes, brought us hot soups and coffee. The bouillion soup had a vile aroma but tasted excellent. The coffee tasted as if it were made from barley or rye or some other grain.
Three kilometers on the other side of the town we pulled into a bivouac area, an old cut over forest replanted with white birch We were surrounded by the 63rd Infantry and set up outposts but we did not dig in. Not far away we could hear our 30 caliber and 50 caliber machine guns and the German "burp-guns" blazing away at each other. During the night our First Platoon and Headquarters Platoon were strafed and bombed by a lone German Raider somewhere along the Meuse River.
December 25, 1944.
Merry Christmas and it was cold. We were up and around by 0730, rolled up our bedrolls and then went to chow at the 63rd Infantry's kitchen, set up in the field. We had fried storage eggs and hot oatmeal with coffee, bread and jam.
Some of the fellows in the platoon met Bilello an old "A" Company man, who incidentally was in our platoon when we were in Camp Polk. We returned to our halftracks, washed and cleaned up because it was Christmas. R. Gray and Powers took a few pictures of the gang. They all took a few snapshots of the church services held nearby. We had chow again with the 63rd about 1645, which consisted of Roast Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, peas, fruit cocktail, bread, jam and coffee. It certainly was good but the food cooled off in a hurry.
We didn't dig any foxholes that night because the 41st Reconnaissance reported that the enemy was miles from us and not making or preparing another drive on our sector. However, we had a man alerted on each vehicle during the night. Patrols were maintained by the Infantry during the night.
December 26, 1944.
Up again at 0800, rolled up our bedroll and had breakfast. When we returned, Lt. Tobe informed us that we were to move to a new assembly area near Rocroi and rejoin our Division. Swanger had to clean the carburetor from R. Gray's halftrack and did a very good job although his hands were practically frozen.
We moved out and convoyed to within five miles of Rocroi and joined our Company in a wooded area. Our Captain gave us strict orders not to build any fires and to dig in immediately.
We dug our foxholes late at night and were alerted against possible enemy infiltration through our lines as it was reported that they were wearing civilian clothes or United States uniforms. Enemy paratroopers were reported landing in back of our lines. Consequently, we had to double our guard details. Lt. Tobe and T/5 Darroch made a ninety-five mile reconnaissance during the night through some towns of France and Belgium to check on roads and enemy activities. Just as any other night since December 24th, the artillery fire was very loud and plainly heard. Our artillery was fired almost all at one time, that is, due to inter-communication systems a whole platoon or battery can fire their guns when the commanding Officer gives the order to fire. The German artillery was easily differentiated as it is more sporadic.
December 27, 1944.
We were awakened at 0830, had breakfast and later while the drivers worked on their vehicles, we prepared careful toilets.
At noon we had turkey with all the trimmings prepared by our Kitchen personnel under the smooth guidance of S/Sgt. Smith. No other outfit in the army can beat our kitchen when it comes to assuage the appetites of a soldier. Those fellows are somewhat like our mothers when it comes to cooking, but, remember that compliment only applies at meal times.
Weather was very cold and clear. The water in the gasoline froze during the night compelling extra cussing by our drivers.
December 28, 1944.
We were up at 0830. Some of the bedrolls were frozen to the ground.
Gosh, Turkey again today, it seemed more like a picnic.
Fellows were complaining about their feet especially after coming off of guard during the night. It was difficult to keep warm at night, because a person must be quiet and on the alert and at times a person feels numb all over.
We saw hundreds of United States Bombers on their way to Germany again. It gave us a thrill to see those silver streaks in the sky. Hitler was getting a taste of his own medicine and a little more to boot.
December 29, 1944.
Not being on the move for a couple of days, we were not at all surprised when we were awakened at 0300 with orders to move out immediately. We were packed and ready to move by 0335 joining the convoy moving along the road to Charlesville. We passed through Sedan and as in Charlesville, half of the buildings were demolished. The moonlight made it as bright as day and as we rode along we could see the walls and ruins of what had been beautiful homes. We passed through another French town and soon after we crossed the Belgium border.
Neufchateau was the first large Belgium town we passed through. It was relatively undamaged by shellfire. All the bridges were prepared with demolition charges in the event of a withdrawal. Trees were also prepared with TNT charges to form an abatis. These were pine trees about twenty-four inches in diameter and each tree required eight pounds of TNT.
About four kilometers past Neufchateau we pulled into a bivouac area of young pines. We dug in and set up a perimeter defense with our 30s, 50s, and bazookas.
All afternoon and night, long columns of our tanks, trucks, halftracks, anti air craft and attached tank destroyers roared up the road toward the very near front lines approximately three miles away. It was an irregular front, for the reason that small enemy salients had penetrated at several points.
That night a German plane tried to strafe a column of our vehicles nearby. Our guards quickly manned the machine guns and opened up on the plane. The ME-109 was only able to get off a few bursts and flew away, undoubtedly discouraged by all the hot lead coming his way. Loder had to pull Erger out of his foxhole after he dived into it, bedroll and all and couldn't get out. The sight of this incident seemed to amuse Loder considerably.
During another guard shift, Harden and Gildow saw our 575th AAA shoot down a plane. It looked similar to a meteor shooting across the sky as it finally fell to the ground in flames. Later they heard a German patrol walking through the woods and opened up on them with their machine gun. Apparently the patrol was scared away because we didn't have any trouble with them after that.
December 30, 1944.
Up again at 0430, had breakfast and pulled out of the bivouac area at 0530. We followed "A" Company of the 63rd Infantry for a few miles to a very small town, consisting of about twenty-five houses and a church. Here the Infantry with a few of the 42nd tanks went ahead, deploying into an open field below the crest of a small hill. It was only four hundred yards from where we were halted to the crest and little did we realize how close the Germans were.
We sat around for a few minutes in the vehicles and some of the men got out on the road for a stretch. Our vehicles were practically bumper to bumper on the road near a road junction. The next thing we heard was the firing of our weapons and German burpguns a few hundred yards away. Inasmuch as this was actually our first glimpse of the front lines we were interested spectators. Suddenly, a German artillery projectile, Armor Piercing type, went skidding along in a pasture ten feet from us. We decided that it was time to find cover - - - just in case. Meanwhile, the people and little children nearby were all looking around and trying to see what was going on. Then two more German HE shells exploded in the field not more than a hundred yards from us. This happened about 1030 that morning. Despite the excitement the fellows felt the pains of hunger and started to prepare some coffee and C-rations. As we were eating, we heard an abrupt sound like the roaring blast of thunder which came very close to us and - - we were no longer hungry. We looked up in time to see glass, pieces of wood, feathers from a feather tick, slate and mortar go flying from a house about thirty yards from us. The scare passed quickly because no one was getting hurt and it seemed as though all the firing was ineffective as far as we were concerned. However, we couldn't understand why we had to stay all bunched up on the road when according to our years of training the proper procedure was to disperse and dig in. The spot we were in was near a road junction and we knew that the Germans had it
zeroed in. A few more rounds came over but did no harm. Not long after that, every family in that town was moving out on the double and from the expressions of fear on their faces, we could readily understand that they were terrified. We saw a little boy and girl both of whom were cut by flying glass when their house was hit by a shell.
Lt. Tobe didn't wait for any orders and had our platoon move off the road into a field about a hundred yards away where we dug in immediately. Shells continued to fly over us towards the tanks, halftracks and Tank destroyers to our rear. We saw one round hit in the midst of an Infantry mortar crew, killing three and seriously wounding two of them.
The ground was frozen to a depth of six inches, necessitating the use of axes in order to cut through. As we were "digging in" one shell hit within forty feet of Fisher in a halftrack, Erger at work on his slit trench and Garrett who had not begun to dig. Garrett was the closest to the burst and all he could do was lay flat on the ground. Fortunately he wasn't hurt, but a piece of shrapnel tore his Mackinaw. Clark's 2-1/2 Ton Truck, however, was badly hit by the shrapnel which penetrated the metal body and perforated the canvas cover top. One of the pieces of shrapnel went through the hood cutting the horn wire. That was one time Clark couldn't sound off mechanically, he had no other alternative but "blow it out of his barracks bag".
A couple of "screaming meemies" came over, bursting in midair and spreading shrapnel profusely. (A "screaming meemy" can be seen and heard just before it bursts. It has an uncanny shrill whining sound that causes a person to have goosepimples and high blood pressure, both feelings working automatically.)
The infantry couldn't proceed because the Germans had 88s and machine gun positions well "dug in". Four of our tanks were knocked out and two of the occupants were killed. In all there were about twenty four men killed the first day, in our group of the combat team.
There were two reasons why the Germans seemed to be so accurate with their artillery and mortar fire. One was, an American Reconnaissance Plane flying over our area which we found out was actually piloted by a German. The plane W2S captured by the Germans during the breakthrough. Later reports stated that it had been shot down. The other reason was, an observation post operated by a German, dressed as a civilian, in a house about a hundred yards from where we were dug in. Our First Aid Station occupied the building on the first floor and the German Observer was operating all this time undetected on the second floor. What a combination. However, his position was discovered in due time and our guesses were that he was eliminated very quickly.
That night about 1800, Fisher and Erger's squads were sent out on a couple of roadblocks in line with our Infantry. About 2400, they were pulled out and the platoon moved back a few miles where the combat teams reassembled. We dug in and at 0230 we were once more on the move.
December 31, 1944.
We traveled about four miles to a new assembly area, arriving there about 0930. The days were very short and the nights were very long adding to the hardships of war, especially for the men on guard.
It snowed during the night and some of the fellows couldn't resist playing in it. However, all of the fellows were complaining bitterly about having cold feet.
Our Platoon left the Company at 1630, moving out with the infantry. We traveled about three miles through a couple of demolished towns and then slept in our vehicles on top of a hill.
Broderick our mail man, who always gets vituperated remarks from the fellows when he fails to hand out a letter, managed to satisfy everyone that day. Incidentally, he is from Connecticut and in civilian life we heard that he was a fireman. It was he, who helped train Mayor LaGuardia to jump on fire wagons. His posture is something like a Heptagon.
A German plane flew over our infantry boys, about one hundred yards from us and dropped two bombs but there were no casualties. Our artillery, the backbone of the Army, about two miles behind us had lambasted the next town ahead where a few Germans were holding out. Exactly at midnight, every gun in our three battalions of artillery, 490th, 491st and 492nd, let go a round. The noise made by the firing was deafening and the sky over the German lines was bright as day, making it possible to see at least twelve houses in the nearby town, two of which were in flames. Over the horizon we could see other fires. The Germans fired only five rounds all night long in reprisal, while our artillery continued firing all night.
January 1, 1945.
Happy New Year!?? In the morning we moved back a half-mile toward Lavaselle, where we received two pair of socks and some C and K-rations. S/Sgt. Heneghan and T/5 Bertleson were the boys responsible for getting us our supplies. We certainly appreciated the fine work they did. Heneghan is an Irishman who has a habit of walking crooked. It seems that once upon a time, a long time ago, he lost something that must have been very valuable and he is still looking. Bertleson, on the other hand, is different, even though he works the hardest, he always walks erect, not that he didn't lose something at some time or other, but according to him it is useless to cry over spilt milk, particularly if it tends to crack a man in the midsection.
Meanwhile, our First Platoon assigned to clear a mine field the day before but couldn't reach their objective because of German snipers, were forced to abandon their lumber trailer along the road. They returned this day to reclaim their trailer and a half-mile from it, Kirby's halftrack hit a teller mine. It rolled on about ten feet before stopping, one wheel and tire were completely wrecked. The rim was torn almost in two and was about forty feet from the edge of the road. Luckily no one was hurt.
A little later, not more than thirty feet from Kirby's halftrack, a medium tank hit another teller mine and blew its right track apart. Again no one was hurt.
About 1200 our Company moved into Houmont which we shelled the night before. We found out that there were only six German soldiers in the town with machine guns. They left a few minutes after our artillery opened up on the town and the ones that suffered were the civilians who were left holding the bag. The houses were badly hit and many horses and cows were found dead in the barns. Hay and grain were still smoking and burning.
We pulled into our new bivouac area and a few minutes later our platoon was sent out to clear the roads ahead of us of mines. Just before we got to the 1st Platoon's knocked out halftrack, we saw our first dead German soldier. From all indications, he was killed during the night and his head was badly mashed by vehicles passing over him. Buch, Skutchan, Austin, Shanechuck, Powers, and Dorsey were the key men, who operated the mine detectors, while Gray and Loder prepared demolition charges to blow up any teller mines that were found. The remainder of the platoon dispersed as security.
After working about two hours we couldn't find any mines, however we did discover two German rockets, two grenades and one machine gun 42 plus a number of pouches which were left behind by the Germans when they were captured.
We returned to the Company bivouac area where we stayed for the night.
Schnable's squad, however, was sent out to set up a roadblock at 2100 and that meant that they had to dig in again.
The fellows were certainly "hurting". Everyone was complaining about their cold feet, and it was impossible to get them warm. Darroch and Meyer just before midnight were assigned as Liaison contact men during the night which did not help their feet any in an open peep.
The password that night was "Digest". The countersign was "Readers".
A peculiar incident happened that day. While we were getting dug in for the night in the Company bivouac area a German HE shell landed near and luckily a wall absorbed the blast. Our CP halftrack made a mad dash through a hedgerow, flying up the road and stopping behind a hill. It certainly made the fellows laugh.
January 2, 1945.
Schnable's squad joined our Platoon in the Company bivouac area but they had to return to the roadblock again at 0900. They stayed there until 1100 when they rejoined the Platoon heading towards Rechimont where we were to assist Company "A" of the 63rd Infantry and the 41st Cavalry. The road was jammed with all types of vehicles and tanks, taking us almost three hours to go a mile and a half.
There were German snipers hidden away on our side of the lines and particularly a few snipers in a patch of woods that had picked off a 1st Sergeant of Company "A" of the 63rd Infantry. Our troops were trying to locate the snipers with their telescopic 1503 rifles, firing into some big pines. Another fellow came along to try his shooting eye, then an officer with a carbine, next an infantryman lobbed over a rifle grenade. A slow moving TD heard about the snipers, then they opened up with their light machine gun. Then the infantry assault guns opened up with their 75 Howitzer with HE shells. No one in the column or the ones firing could see the snipers and consequently they were shooting all over the woods. The TD not satisfied with the machine gun 30 caliber, decided to use their 50 caliber and pretty soon it sounded like a real battlefront, which incidentally was only six hundred yards away.
Schnable made the remark that the Germans would be able to zero in on us just from the noise we were making, and sure enough 88 s started to fall and burst near us, one or two falling only fifty yards away. After that, the fellows stopped firing into the woods.
Total score (not authenticated); Thousands of rounds expended; about eight cows killed; four cows however, came strolling out of the woods, one slightly wounded in the leg. (The next day a couple of infantry boys went through the woods and captured two Germans killing one in his foxhole).
We moved on down the road into Rechimont stopping in the heart of the town. We were at the foot of the hill and the Germans were on the other side. The 41st Cavalry troops were in an open meadow and the 63rd Infantry was "dug in" near the top of the hill. The 41st tanks had been on this front, but had to withdraw, losing four tanks. We saw one tank knocked out at the crossroads where three dead Yanks were still in it. A horrible sight!
Buch prepared some demolition charges in the event we had to withdraw in a hurry. We had stacks of ammunition stored in a few houses and we couldn't take any chances, all were prepared for demolition.
Erger's squad was sent up to help the 41st Cavalry protect our left flank where they set up a machine gun emplacement and outposts equipped with rifles, hand grenades and a bazooka.
Fisher's squad was sent up to help the 63rd Infantry hold part of the front line because of the many casualties the Infantry had had that afternoon, losing twenty-four killed and about sixty percent casualties in all. Three of our boys were killed by sniper bullets while the remainder of the casualties were killed and wounded by artillery and mortar fire.
In all the time we were in this area, enemy artillery and mortar shells continued to fall making it difficult for both squads to "dig in".
At about O1~3, a mortar shell hit close to where the second squad was "dug in", Whenever a shell hit close, the men would call out to each other by name to be sure all was well. However, Cpl. Stull, assistant squad leader, did not answer. Loder and Brown made a hurried check and couldn't arouse him. Erger ran back to the first aid station, secured a medic and a peep and returned. It was too dark to see anything and the shells continued to fall all around, making it impossible to apply first aid. They placed Stull on a stretcher and put him in the peep, driving back to the first aid station where the Doctor pronounced him dead. That was an awful shock, not only to the squad but to the platoon in general, because he was very well liked by everyone. We shall never forget Stull who was a pal to all of us.
In the meantime, the men in Fisher's squad were experiencing shells bursting near them from both sides. Our own artillery was
January 6, 1945.
We had just found out that day, that we were nearer to Chenogne than Sibret. Chenogne was just over the hill from us.
We saw a few more 9th Armored Division vehicles that were captured by the Germans when they broke through Belgium. Our tanks and TDs were always on the alert for them and knocked them out whenever they came out in the open. (The 9th A. D. was resting somewhere in France).
Saw a B-26 which had crashed on a hillside near Chenogne. The plane was scattered for several hundred feet. The pilot practically burned up as his body was beyond recognition. From the records we found on his person, his name was R. W. Wilson and he had taken part of his flight training at Hondo, Texas.
The casualties continued to come in. They started using 2-1/2 Ton trucks instead of peeps. Either the 17th Airborne Division was having a tough battle or they were green troops because the number of casualties was mounting steadily. We found out later that they were worn out by forced marches.
More German prisoners were being marched back to the PW enclosure, which was about seven miles to the rear of us.
January 7, 1945.
We were not complaining too much as long as we had our regular meals from our kitchen but the fellows complained and suffered considerably because of the cold weather and their cold feet. Potentially everyone had the symptoms of frozen feet or possibly trench foot.
Some of the fellows went on a reconnaissance of their own and reported the following. They saw two of our 22nd Tank Battalion "Mediums" knocked out on the edge of the town of Chenogne. Also eight 105MM cannons (towed) which the Germans had used against us. These were completely wrecked, except for the tires. Down in the village of Chenogne they came upon a nice looking home which the Germans had used for a Headquarters. It was full of German equipment and they found a large box containing Belgium, German, French and Luxembourg coins. On the street they saw two dead Germans shoved into the gutter and left there, and about twenty feet away was a dead sheep. No one had the time to bury them at that time.
On the way back to the bivouac area they saw three German self-propelled 88s, one had two dead Germans along side of it. They found a variety of American clothing and equipment which the Germans had captured. One of the 17th Airborne Infantryman, looted the Germans and found about twenty dollars in American bills and four Parker fountain pens. These, the Germans, without a doubt looted from our own men. Near the 105s that were knocked out they saw several machine gun nests where five Germans had been killed and they too were all laying out in the snow. They were a bloody, gory looking mess. One of them was a handsome looking fellow and very young. Out in the open field was still another dead German.
It started to snow again that day and from all appearances we could almost predict continual cold weather and snow for many days to come.
January 8, 1945,
What a morning! About eight inches of snow was on the ground. Some of the fellows who didn't use their shelter half to cover their foxholes were completely covered with snow and it certainly was a mess.
Buch and Brown came back that afternoon with a couple of Airborne skooters. They had the time of their life, skidding around the snow.
We moved into Sibret that afternoon getting billets in the barns and houses which the civilians were good enough to let us share. The Headquarters section and Fisher's squad occupied a house on the second floor with our Company CP. Erger and Schnable's squads occupied a barn about a hundred yards from the Company CP. Very cozy compared to fox-holes.
The snow continued to fall and at this point we had ten inches.
We looked over the town of Sibret and found a number of German and American vehicles knocked out. We also saw a C-47 which was a total wreck.
Our first Platoon was informed that they were going up to the front the next day to support the 17th Airborne.
On this day we lost Conley from the first squad because of frozen feet, and Thurston with pleurisy, both of them were evacuated to the hospital. Bullock was dropped from our Company roll and we had not heard from Bullock since he was hospitalized in England nor had we heard from Swanger who was injured on January 3rd.
January 9, 1945.
Things were fairly quiet these days but the men suffered more and more from cold feet. About fifteen of the men from our platoon were getting first aid treatment from our able medic T/5 Shelton. Shelton informed all of us to rub our feet vigorously every night for five minutes so that the blood could circulate.
Some of the boys were able to pick up more Airborne scooters.
We were also paid in New Belgian Francs which were curios.
January 10, 1945.
It was too quiet for comfort but it certainly felt good to cuddle up in the bedrolls during the day with a roof over our heads.
The snow rose to about eleven inches and we certainly felt for the infantry on the front lines who had to stay in their foxholes.
Loder, Buch and R. Gray took a halftrack and drove to Chenogne where they found a stove and three more motor bikes which they returned to Sibret. A few rounds of 88 s hastened their return.
January 11, 1945.
Another day of rest. Cappelen from the second squad was evacuated because of frozen feet.
Lt. Tobe and Buch looked over some 88s to get important data for our Ordnance. Buch was transferred from Schnable's to Fisher's squad.
January 12, 1945.
We moved out of Sibret at 1600 and proceeded towards Longchamps. We couldn't see very much when we passed through Bastogne because it was dark. About 2300 we dug in behind some woods, about two kilometers from Longchamps. A few stray German artillery shells came over our way but didn't amount to much, so we slumbered peacefully.
Early that morning S/Sgt. Belmont relieved T/5 Shelton as our first aid medic.
January 13, 1945.
Just another day, so we thought, when we were awakened and informed that chow would be ready at 0700. We could hear shells exploding not too far away, but far enough to have us believe that we were fairly safe from enemy observation.
While we were eating our breakfast we were startled by a barrage of enemy artillery fire of A. P. and H. E. shells. We took cover as quickly as possible but some of the boys didn't get the chance to take cover. Hank and Bill Warcken, identical twin brothers, and C. R. Brown, all from the Third Platoon were in their 2-1/2 ton truck when the barrage began, one shell bursting nearby and another making a direct hit on the truck. S/Sgt. Belmont applied first aid as quickly as possible and had all three evacuated to the first aid station. Hank and Bill died at the first aid station and C. R. Brown was seriously wounded. (Later reports concerning C. R. Brown, stated that he would lose one leg and the use of the other. One of his arms was badly shattered by shrapnel).
Another shell which exploded in the treetops got Gildow, of the third squad from our Platoon, in the buttocks. Smoot and Schnable at the time the barrage started, were running towards the Warckens when they heard they were hit and while running a shell exploded near them, the concussion throwing Schnable flat on his face and jarring Smoot a little. Both of them were uninjured by this experience.
About 1100 we moved out of that area and proceeded to Longchamps were we "dug in" in an open field. The 450th Field Artillery was giving the Germans plenty of lead.
At about 1200, Lt. Tobe informed Fisher and Erger to load up the squads in their halftracks as we had a minefield to clear. Lt. Tobe went in Fisher's halftrack which was the lead vehicle, Erger's halftrack following. As we were leaving the outskirts of Longchamps driving up a hill, the enemy opened up with their artillery on our tanks setting on the edge of the hill about a hundred yards away and to the left of us. Lt. Tobe halted the vehicles, ordering the men to take cover while he went up to the crest of the hill to view the situation and see if it were possible for our halftracks to bypass the hill without being observed by the enemy. Lt. Tobe, closely followed by Gray, started to run up the hill when suddenly the shells started falling and bursting all around the two halftracks. A time burst exploded above the ground directly in front of Lt. Tobe and Gray, killing Lt. Tobe instantly. Gray was wounded slightly on the back, being saved from death by a miracle when a piece of shrapnel struck his M-1 rifle which he was carrying to his side, breaking it into two pieces. Gerdlund who was driving the lead vehicle was mortally wounded in the arms and chest. Lair was slightly wounded in the buttocks.
In the meantime as the men in Erger's squad were leaving the halftrack to take cover, one shell hit nearby getting Long in the legs. He immediately called for help, whereupon, S/Sgt. Belmont, our medic and Cpl. Powers rushed to give him aid. Another shell hit very close, killing Powers instantly and mortally wounding Belmont and Hettenbach.
R. Gray and Erger who were in the halftrack all the time, got out when a shell hit the back of the halftrack. Erger took cover on the side of the road, meeting Fisher who was running back calling for S/Sgt. Belmont our medic. They went to the back of the track where they found Skutchan pulling Hettenbach to cover, R. Gray, Fisher and Erger quickly secured some peeps about two hundred yards away during which time the shells kept coming in. All the wounded except Gray, were evacuated. (Reports received at a later date stated that Belmont, Gerdlund and Hettenbach had died of their wounds).
R. Gray turned his halftrack around and returned to the bivouac area with the rest of the squad but G. Smith and. Gray worked for twenty minutes getting the chain untangled from their halftrack, finally managing to turn it around and return to our bivouac area.
Late that afternoon our Platoon went out again to clear a minefield, locating several teller mines. The Third Platoon also cleared a minefield in another area and found several mines and booby traps in an abatis.
Lt. McLain took over as our Platoon Leader. Platky who was with the First Platoon, was transferred to our Platoon going into Fisher's squad. Austin and Shanechuck were transferred from Schnable's squad to Erger's squad, Austin taking over as Assistant Squad Leader. G. F. Smith was assigned to drive Fisher's halftrack.
It is difficult to express in words just exactly how we felt or what we were thinking of that night. The third platoon lost three wonderful fellows when they lost the Warcken brothers and C. R. Brown who was seriously wounded. We lost Powers, everybody's friend, Gerdlund a real buddy always full of fun, Hettenbach who was quiet but a likable fellow who was always In a conversation when we talked about home and the folks and Lt. Tobe a splendid leader who was well liked by all of us because he always thought of his platoon.
We didn't know how bad Long was hurt and we wondered and hoped for the best. Belmont our first aid medic had just been with us a few days and we don't know much about him personally, but we do know that he and Powers gave up their lives to help a wounded man. We shall never forget their heroic deeds.
We will never forget any of these men who died fighting for what was right. May God grant them eternal rest.
January 14, 1945.
We cleared more minefields and encountered more enemy artillery fire but no one was hurt
Williams our bulldozer operator was slightly wounded when the blade struck a wire setting off a boobytrap, while clearing an abatis.
Our First Platoon had bad luck today. They were out ahead of the Infantry and tanks setting up a machine gun when a mortar shell exploded in the center of the crew. K. I. Parker, Bauman, Snider, Acosta, Haskell and Cleary were wounded and evacuated to the hospital.
The 1st Platoon while sweeping for mines the day before, lost PFC. Dayton Bakewell who was killed, Cpl. Reynolds and T/4 Vaughn who were wounded by mortar fire. Bakewell was one of the happiest fellows in the company, he had provided us with plenty of laughs in tight spots and we were all shocked and saddened by his loss;
January 15, 1945.
We moved into Bertogne early in the morning, checking for booby traps and sweeping for mines. We found and blew one -mine in the center of the square. We continued to sweep the roads for another two kilometers finding a few box mines and several roadblocks consisting of a few scatters trees. We passed by three Nazi SP 75 MMs and one Mark-four. Near these tanks were several dead Germans whose bodies were blown apart.
Upon reaching the crest of a hill overlooking the town of Compogne, we saw a number of Germans retreating from our advancing tanks and infantry. It didn't take our boys long to open up on them with their M-1s. Kramer, Buch, Platky, Fisher and Schnable haven't agreed and we doubt if they will ever agree as to who killed the most Germans.
Late in the afternoon we went into the town sweeping the roads for mines as we went along. Brown and Garrett with several infantrymen captured twelve Germans hiding in a house. S/Sgt. Meyer and some infantrymen captured another ten Germans who were hiding in a church.
We were informed that night that due to the expert shooting performed by our men when we entered Compogne, we were being recommended for combat badges.
January 16, 1945.
The bivouac area for today was on the outskirts of Compogne.
We heard that our Division was credited with knocking out the 3rd and 15th S. S. Panzer Divisions between December 29, 1944 and January 3, 1945.
Early in the morning we moved up to the west side of Mabompre. Here we had to fix a bypass while Headquarters Company put in three sections of treadway bridge over a large culvert the Germans had blown up as a road block.
Just on the other side, around a slight bend in the road, we saw two of our medium tanks knocked out. Going on up the road we saw several German SP 75s and a huge Mark-five knocked out. At the top of a hill three kilometers from- Houffalize we came upon the second German abatis. It took us about thirty minutes to cut up eighteen trees, two feet in diameter. While clearing the roads several mortar shells fell nearby but did no damage. Our General Holbrook was right there with us observing.
Around 1530 we moved a little closer to Houffalize where we bivouacked in an area which was full of well built German dugouts with roofs and all. The Third Platoon joined us soon after. At 1700 the first platoon joined us and some of the men started to "dig in" in an open field. All of the sudden three shells tell in the midst of the men digging and around our vehicles. Greenberg was killed instantly. De Hann was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel, fracturing his skull. Cearly was slightly wounded on the chin and Gassman was hit in the left arm. Doc Carson the first platoon's medic, did a wonderful job of applying first aid and he received some very good assistance from Morris. R. Gray and Buch helped Doc Carson place the men in vehicles for evacuation, some of whom were from the 17th AB.
Our platoon truck got it again with Gallagher in the back of the truck. Somehow Gallagher managed to duck the flying pieces of shrapnel. The truck had to be sent back to Ordnance for repairs.
January 17, 1945.
The men slept fairly well in the dugouts being aroused from their slumber a couple of times when two barrages of rockets hit within our area.
We took off at 0930 to put in a road block on the north side of Houffalize but after Lt. McLain, found out that the supporting Infantry was only a Platoon instead of a Company we were ordered to sit tight.
We left there about 1530 and moved back to Longchamps where we took over some Belgium farmhouses and barns.
We were informed that our Division was that day taken off the secret list.
January 18, 1945.
Lt. Donnell took over our Platoon, Lt. McLain returning to Headquarters Platoon.
About1530 our Platoon was sent out to locate some mines that the 101st Airborne had laid a mile past Longchamps. The men swept for mines but had an awful time in a blinding sleet storm in addition to the snow which came up to their knees. The wind was so strong it practically pushed us back three feet to every step we had taken forward. Along the road we saw a tank that had hit a mine, blowing off its track. Farther up the road we found a 2-1/2 ton truck which had hit a mine, also locating three more mines nearby.
The snow was falling so thick and the wind blowing so hard that it was impossible to see anything.
January 19, 1945.
Verbaum was evacuated this morning due to frozen feet. ]. Gray who was injured on January 13, decided to have a small piece of shrapnel taken out of his back.
We checked the same area for mines again in the morning and found none.
Confirmed fatalities to date were: Five killed and thirty five wounded.
Schroeder and Dugan left late in the evening with the bulldozer to clear the snow covered roads up ahead.
January 20, 1945.
The two "Mauldin Boys", Schroeder and Dugan, worked all night with the bulldozer, and didn't return till the next day.
We pulled out at noon toward Noville. We bivouacked in an open field and promptly dug in. At about 1930, Lt. Donnel and S/Sgt. Meyer took a picked crew; Skutchan, Harden, Loder, Buch, Platky, Gray, Hohenthaner, Fisher and R. Gray (driver), and put in four sections of treadway near Bouercy returning to the bivouac area about 0130.
January 21, 1945.
Took off again in the morning going through Bouercy. The Platoon dismounted and started sweeping the roads for mines to Buret, finding eight mines. We continued on to Tavigny Halte or better known as Tavigny Railroad Station, where we found good billets. Found many U. S. mines in area.
According to the latest dope, the Germans were retreating quickly to the Siegfried Line.
January 22, 1945.
Another half inch of snow fell during the night but the sun was out beautifully in the morning.
Henneghan and Bertleson came through with plenty of clothing for the boys. The most important item was "Shoe-Pacs", which we should have had a month ago. They were very warm and comfortable for our feet. –
Bullock the "Limey", who was hospitalized in England, strolled in nonchalantly that morning, whistling "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year".
In comes one, out goes another. Darroch was evacuated to the hospital because of frozen feet.
January 23, 1945.
We certainly enjoyed our rest there. We had plenty of time to spend in cleaning our clothes and doing odds and ends. Some of the fellows who acquired a few guns and souvenirs, built boxes to ship them home.
The Stars and Stripes, our one and only newspaper, began to give the 11th Armored Division a little write-up. We had waited long to see the 11th get credit for the work it was doing.
Our kitchen finally caught up with us and we began to eat regularly again. We found German Propaganda leaflets shot over by an "88". They may be able to kid the German people but not the Americans.
The Third Platoon blew up forty of our mines that the Germans originally captured. They were only four hundred yards away from our building when they blew the mines and broke almost all the windows in every house in town.
A "poop" sheet from Division Headquarters came through, stating that S/Sgt. Belmont and Cpl. Powers were to be awarded Silver Stars posthumously.
January 24, 1945.
All night long our artillery hurled shells to the Siegfried Line. Some of the Eight Inch Howitzers were only two to three miles away and the noise was terrific. We could also hear the 105's and 155's blasting away at the enemy.
Some of the men walked over to Luxembourg. Ruin and destruction was everywhere. In the afternoon the men rode in a truck to Houffalize which town was completely damaged. The Germans had broken and destroyed anything to make it miserable for the civilians. The people always referred to the Germans as "Boche". When they showed us the damaged homes and furniture they would say "Alles Kaput". A farmer took us to his barn and showed us twenty head of cattle, all dead, saying that the Boche had killed them with their rifles before the Americans came in.
The sun was out all day but the weather was extremely cold.
The moon was shining brightly and we saw a buzz-bomb flying overhead late in the evening going southwest.
January 25, 1945.
The temperature rose to about 50 degrees during the day.
Fisher's squad left that morning to guard our bridge at Hardigny, but when they got there the men from "C" Company refused to leave because they liked the place. It didn't make our boys angry and promptly returned to the Company.
Sgt. Fowble, in charge of the Engineer Headquarters Platoon Section, and T/5 (Maldin) Schroeder, took turns operating the bulldozer, digging long deep holes to bury about thirty dead horses.
T/3 Phillip A. Coseno later known as "Lets Go", took over as our medic.
January 26, 1945.
The fellows in our platoon were getting the "Gl s" again, keeping Doc Coseno very busy issuing out pills. Something strange about Coseno, regardless how bad a fellow feels, say for example a headache, toothache, stomach-ache or an ingrown toenail, it always seems that he gives the same pills.
We received a "poop sheet" from our Division Headquarters, giving us all the pertinent facts and figures regarding the Divisions casualties and achievements. The 56th Engineers were specially mentioned and we quote, "The Engineer Battalion gave general support to the attack by maintaining roads, route reconnaissance, mine field clearing and the construction of two M-2 treadway bridges used by the attacking element of the division. On the 15th of January after the Reserve Command had captured Pied du Mont woods and was preparing to move east along the road to Compogne a group of Engineers (this was our own Second and Third Platoons) were given the task of clearing the road of mines. As the Engineers moved along this road operating their mine detectors, they unexpectedly encountered a sizeable group of Germans just west of Compogne. Quickly discarding their mine detectors they brought their rifles into action and engaged the enemy in a fire fight until reinforcements arrived from the Reserve Command and the enemy was overcome". Unquote.
Clark, Nester, Bullock and G. F. Smith were trying their best to get good and sick that they may go to the hospital. Bullock must have told them about the nice clean beds and white sheets, adding that the nurses were very pretty.
January 27, 1945.
We destroyed more mines which the Germans had used on hasty mine fields.
We got our first taste of liquor in many a day as the "Liquor Ration" finally caught up with us. Lt. Donnell, S/Sgt. Meyer, Fisher, Erger and Schnable had to flip for an extra bottle of Cognac. Fisher won, the dirty "Alien". He's from Alaska, isn't he? Well, that makes him an Alien.
It began to snow again, but the billets were good so we didn't mind.
January 28, 1945.
Four inches of snow fell during the night making a total of twenty inches to plough through.
Our rest period seemed to be at an end temporary. Our platoon went out today to cut eight inch logs and make dummy pill boxes for the Tanks and our new infantry replacements to assault. We made two of them taking us about three hours.
A Red Cross truck came by this afternoon with their doughnuts and American Red Cross girls. It was good to hear and see an American girl. One of them was from Boston.
January 29, 1945.
Fisher's squad gave a wonderful demonstration, for the benefitof the Infantry and Tank personnel, showing them how to assault a pillbox. It was a tough job for the boys running through the deep snow.
Erger and Schnable's squads did the honors by dressing up neatly and participating in a "review" at the Battalion Headquarters to see General Kilburn present bronze and silver stars to some of the men in our Battalion. When they came back they certainly were peeved, because there were many of the men in our Platoon as well as our other - Platoons who had done just as much as the men who were issued the stars, that is, aiding the wounded under artillery fire.
Received confirmed reports this day that A. Hettenbach, Henry Warcken and Kenneth Gerdlund had all died of their wounds. It had saddened us all, for every man we have lost had been well liked.
January 30, 1945.
Fisher's squad was sent out to guard the bridge near Hardigny which we had put up some time ago.
The temperature had risen rapidly and the snow was melting fast, making the ground very sloppy.
January 31, 1945.
Fisher's squad returned at noon having been relieved by a squad from the 3rd Platoon.
T/5 Gordon Lewis was injured this day and evacuated to the hospital. Someone accidentally fired a German towed 75mm gun, the shell exploded on a building which Lewis was walking near.
A few of the men from our Platoon took a sixty mile round trip ride, in order to take a shower at a mobile shower unit on the other side of Houffalize. They came back looking like snow men and feeling like icicles.
February 1, 1945.
A cloudy and rainy day, almost all the snow had melted.
Austin cut hair this day.
February 2, 1945.
Austin played Barber again today and while cutting, someone overheard Smoot asking Austin if he had a bottle of Lucky Tiger Hair Oil so he could get rid of his frightened look.
February 3, 1945.
Clark's birthday. Physically he was within the voting age but mentally he stopped aging when he was three. Poor chap, but we like him just the same.
Loder fell asleep while Austin was cutting his hair. Suddenly Loder started to talk in his sleep saying "Cut off plenty from the top and thin it out too".
Hohenthaner and Buch were out on a Souvenir Patrol, found some Screaming Meemies. They sent two of them aloft by placing them on a barrel and firing at primers with Carbines, cutting trees in half on the takeoffs they screamed out of sight over the enemy lines.
February 4, 1945.
We were up at 0600 and had to move out of the Station because a Railhead Company was moving in. We moved into a house about two hundred yards from the Station.
The colored GIs moved in about noon in the yards. They had stacks of supplies such as fresh beef, K-rations, C-rations and Ten in One rations. Something big was planned for the future because all along the roads, for several miles in all directions, there were thousands and thousands of rounds of all kinds of ammunition from 75mm on up.
Some of the fellows saw Loder looking into a mirror and at the same time massaging his head vigorously. That dream he had in the barber chair must have effected him.
February 5, 1945.
It rained all day again. Ducky weather! Corny but appropriate. The Red Cross Truck with pretty American girls for attendants were here in the afternoon.
February 6, 1945.
Left Tavigny Station about 1130. Passed through Oetturo, Steinback, Limerle and Gouvy. Saw many mine fields. The mines were undoubtedly placed hastily in the snow by the Germans but now that the snow had melted away they were readily seen and could be avoided, or removed without a mine detector.
Took over billets in Braunlauf, a small town of friendly Belgium farmers. All suffered directly and indirectly from the war. In this town we encountered a new tongue—"Platt-Deutsch".
February 7, 1945.
Plenty of rain again. The Platoon worked or roads nearby. Some roads seemed to be made worse by our constant traffic over them while hauling shale to repair them.
February 8, 1945.
Repaired the roads a little between Maldingen and Braunlauf.
Fleenor, rejoined our Company this day after being in the hospital for about a month. His hand was injured when it got caught between the cable and the winch on the Bulldozer he was operating.
Rained again today.
February 9, 1945.
Weather forecast; Rain with no relief in sight. We hauled shale from the quarry today. Thurston returned to the Platoon from the hospital.
February 10, 1945.
Rain as usual today. Worked in the quarry this morning.
Boles, our Personnel Clerk, brought the pay roll at noon and we were promptly paid.
After being paid we went back to work again, riding in trucks to Weiswampach in Luxembourg about three miles from the German border, to haul gravel and shale for some major supply route. The work is drudgery, but the road must be kept open, as it goes through St. Vith, thence to the front lines.
We passed a patch of woods full of German equipment and also well studded with German Anti-Personnel concrete Picket mines.
Lt. Procter and S/Sgt. Brancaglione were sent out to look over a Picket mine field, with a few of their men of the 1st Platoon.
The mine field was an immense thing over a mile long. They tried to gap it by cutting the trip wires. Three jack rabbits had been killed by tripping the wires. Bob Brancaglione had already cut about four hundred wires and Lt. Procter, Doc Carson and Gilliam had piled them up. Bob started to cut one wire and the moment he touched the wire it set off the mine, getting him in the legs. Apparently the wire was originally touched or moved by a jack rabbit but didn't pull the pin in the mine sufficiently to set it off. When Bob tried to cut the wire it was enough to loosen the pin, setting off the mine. Doc Carson did his best to administer first aid and applied tourniquets but a later report from the hospital stated that Bob had died from internal hemorrage due to a piece of concrete which entered his abdomen. Everyone in the Company liked Bob very much, because he was always up there with his men and there was never any job too tough for him to handle.
February 11, 1945.
More rain today and consequently the Engineers were sent out to maintain roads. Our Platoon was sent out toward Weiswampach to help patch up the highway. This highway is the main supply line between Bastogne and St. Vith. The macadamized road was completely ruined. In just one stretch of about a hundred yards we unloaded twenty truck loads of slate and rock. The road bed was completely water logged.
Not only were the Engineers working on the roads but we were assisted by the 42nd Tanks and 63rd Infantry.
Our section of the road was all in Luxembourg.
February 12, 1945.
Worked on the road between Braunlauf and Maldingen. It rained steadily. It reminded us of Louisiana.
February 13, 1945.
We worked on the St. Vith road near Oudler not far from Weiswampach. It hadn't stopped raining and the road was getting worse. There must have been at least five hundred loads of slate rock dumped onto it thus far.
A few rounds of German Artillery from the Siegfried Line landed; a few hundred yards away and served to pep up things.
February 14, 1945.
Went out near Oudler again and unloaded more rock. The sun was out all day and it certainly brightened up the world.
Heard that some of the roads were impassable, necessitating the use of C-47 planes to drop supplies to certain units.
Two new men joined our Platoon today. Ray V. Reed and Arthur D. Pards. Reed was assigned to Schnable's squad and Parks to Erger's squad.
February 15, 1945.
Same old routine. Unloaded slate rock and dug a few drains. Sun was shining and felt very good.
February 16, 1945.
More nice sunshine and blue skies, with the temperature rising.
Saw two movies tonight "This is the Life" and "To Have Or Have Not".
Loder is getting pretty good now with his German. He has mastered the words "Siefe" and "Eier".
A little commotion at the kitchen was caused by one of the women living nearby who complained bitterly over a piece of soap that would not lather. She claimed that a couple of GIs traded the so-called soap for eggs. The soap happened to be C-2 Explosive. R. Gray and Loder were the only GIs we knew of that "done" any trading.
February 17, 1945.
Worked in the rock quarry during the morning, but had the afternoon off.
Lt. Ducey and T/5 Bishoff were blown to pieces when a pile of teller mines they were going to blow up, exploded from the weight of the piled mines. Both men were "B" Company Engineers.
Williams who was wounded January 14th, returned to the Company to resume his work on the Bulldozer.
February 18, 1945.
Just leave it to a T/5. Clark managed somehow to get his truck repaired by Ordnance. He ran over a mine this day, damaging the wheels on his truck. Nester was just as bad because he was Clark's assistant driver. He too is a T/5. What a pair. Oh, Brother!
Worked in the rock quarry again. It was foggy and a drizzling rain fell all day.
February 19, 1945.
Worked in the quarry again, with the weather remaining unchanged. Austin cut hair by special request.
February 20, 1945.
The sun shone brightly for a welcome change.
All day long thousands of B-17s and P-47 fighters flew over head. The vapor trails were magnificent.
The artillery began pounding away at the enemy. It sounded like a distant thunderstorm.
February 22, 1945.
Did a lot of blasting and loaded rocks.
Loder and Gray were reprimanded for sleeping overtime, being punished by digging an "ickey poo trench" and had to sign in every hour for the next few days.
February 23, 1945.
Worked on the roads again today. Austin evacuated to the hospital with a fever of 102 degrees.
February 24, 1945.
It was cloudy and we had a little snow in the morning, but cleared in the afternoon and the sun shone brilliantly.
We saw the civilians dig out three little- children and their mother from the debris of a bombed out building.
Received two replacements: Harred going to Schnable's squad and O'Connor going to Fisher's squad.
Bullock, Loder and Buch left at night with a billeting party.
February 25, 1945.
Our Company moved out late at night and pulled into Manderfeld about 2200.
On our way to Manderfeld we passed through St. Vith which was completely wiped off the map, not a building was left standing.
Our bombers did a perfect job of destruction. The reason for this destruction was due to the fact that the civilians as well as the troops in the city, were all firing weapons, trying to keep our troops out.
February 26, 1945.
Cut pines to corduroy bad roads near Manderfeld. It rained during the afternoon.
February 27, 1945.
It rained night and day. We cut more pines Also loaded five trucks with gravel from a quarry.
February 28, 1945.
We went out to dig drainage ditches along the road. Schnable's halftrack took all the demolition men out to blow "Dragons- Teeth" on the Siegfreid line north of Manderfeld.
March 1, 1945.
The sun was out during the morning but it rained in the afternoon. We worked on the roads again and cut more corduroy.
The big guns were blasting away at the enemy for twenty-four hours a day from the time of our arrival in Manderfeld.
March 2, 1945.
Worked on the roads this morning and then hurriedly moved out in the afternoon to join the 63rd Infantry near Hillsiede. Fisher's squads went with "C" Company, Erger's squad with "B" Company, and Schnable's squad with "A" Company. We were getting set for a big attack through the Siegfried Line the following morning. The attack was called off a 2130 that night and we were told that it was postponed until the next night. We slept a little easier. The ground was covered with a light film of snow that fell during the day. This town was just over the German Border.
March 3, 1945.
The 87th Infantry Division was sent on the line and our part of the attack was called off permanently.
Each squad gave a little demonstration on Demolition for the Infantry.
Joe O'Connor had a brother in "B" Company of the 63rd and they had a chance to see each other for a short time.
March 4, 1945.
We left the Infantry in the afternoon and joined our Company in Manderfeld where we picked up new replacements. Their names and the squads they were assigned to were as follows: Fisher's squad, Hodson and Dombroski, Erger's squad, Gandy and Hughes, Schnable's squad, McAllister, Headquarters Section, Mc Farland.
We stayed in Manderfeld about thirty minutes and we took off again at 1630. We road in a convoy going back to Schonberg then turning east and after two miles we were in Germany. About ten miles in we came to the Siegfried Line and passed through a huge iron gate where we saw the endless rows of Dragons teeth. It was about 2300 when we finally "dug in", in some woods near Olzheim.
March 5, 1945.
We took some time off to rearrange the equipment in our vehicles during the morning.
About 0400 we loaded up and took off once again heading East. At 1600 we arrived in Budashiem. Here the Company "dug in" on an exposed hillside. We could see the enemy as well as our Infantry firing at each other, in the town of Schwirzhiem.
We had barely "dug in" when the familiar song of the 83 s started to roll in. We hit the dirt and held tight. Believe it or not--out of some thirty-five shells--not one man or vehicle had been hurt from shell fragments or concussion. It's amazing how close they came sometimes and not hurt anyone. The barrage lasted about fifteen minutes.
After dark we had chow from our kitchen which consisted of Hot dogs and Sauerkraut.
About 2300 we moved out to Fleringen, three miles east, out of range, where we "dug in" for the night.
Incidentally, we were informed that Fraternizing wasn't allowed. "Nix Furstay", or "Nicht Verstehe" depending on your German.
March 6, 1945.
It snowed during the wee hours of the morning and we had a few wet blankets mixed with a little mud. Swanger was transferred to Headquarters Platoon as a mechanic.
About 1400 we moved into billets in Budasheim.
Fisher's squad put in a treadway in Lissingen. In this area the Germans had blown every bridge and culvert, and roads when next to an Anti-tank ditch. The railroad tracks, switches and frogs were blown every hundred feet on both rails. The Germans didn't spare anything. The squad started to work on a bridge but were told to stop when they found a very good bypass. While working on the bypass the Germans opened up with their artillery and luckily no one was hurt. They returned to Fleringen at 2330.
March 7, 1945.
Early in the morning we were told that a full scale attack or a march to the Rhine had begun the day before and that our Division would start out today. The 50th Infantry Division was to follow us to "mop up".
At 1100 we moved out and the roads were jammed with- units moving up. We went through Budashiem, Lissingen, through bombed out Gerolstein, which had a large Railroad yard and Station.
We continued on through Kirchweiler and stopped in Dockweiler where the buildings were still burning from the shelling which started about 1000 that morning. We found out that most of the troops had retreated the day before leaving only a few men behind for rear guard action.
What struck us all was our first impression of Germany. The cities and towns were well kept and in excellent condition. The larger towns were usually bombed around the railroad stations and factories otherwise the buildings were all intact.
About 2100 a German Tank which the leading column had passed up thinking it was knocked out, suddenly came to life and opened up on our vehicles knocking out or Air Compressor, Maintenance Truck and the Third Platoon truck. The German Tank also knocked out one of our Light Tanks killing three of the tankers. All the vehicles that were hit, were damaged completely by fire. Smithers who operated the Air Compressor was slightly wounded and evacuated. The German tank was eliminated.
March 8, 1945.
We started off for the grand march again about 0830.
We proceeded on down a winding mountain road into Kelberg. Buch and Meyers picked up a captured Gl halftrack that the Germans had abandoned. Bullock took over as driver, Oh Brother!
It was about 1600 when we were called upon to put a treadway over a blown-out bridge in Mayen. Fisher's squad set charges in a roadblock at the entrance of Mayen and blew it up very nicely, after which Schnable's squad stayed in Mayen as road guides while Erger's squad stood guard on the bridge. The remainder of the platoon continued on with the convoy to Plaidt, arriving there about 2300.
Schnable and Erger's squads stayed in Mayen until dark and then started their gruesome drive in blackout to Plaidt. Several Infantry halftracks, Brockways, and tanks had run off the roads and were stuck for the night. One Infantry halftrack ran off the road and turned over killing one Gl. Gray and Darroch did a swell job of driving in blackout and succeeded in getting both squads to Plaidt where they joined the rest of the platoon about 0400 the next morning.
March 9, 1945.
With another halftrack in the Platoon, Lt. Donnell and S/Sgt. Meyer, decided to have a fourth squad with Buch in charge. Gray, Assistant Squad Leader, Platky, Brown, McAllister, Gandy, Hughes, Mc Whirk, and Bullock the Phantom Driver.
In Plaidt we noticed that almost all the barns were full of machinery, and inquired as to why the Germans had these small shops. We were told that when Coblenz was about to be bombed the Germans moved out of the large factories and set up small shops which were less apt to be bombed in smaller cities.
About 1000 we moved over to Meisenheim about two kilometers away, where we parked on the streets.
About 1700 we took off in a wild flight for Andernach. Here our 63rd Infantry ran into plenty of opposition from snipers and riflemen. Schnable's squad was assigned to stay in Andernach but he was in need of some very choice men so Erger promptly complied by giving him a few of his best combat soldiers.
The remainder of the Platoon returned to Meisenheim where they took over some billets for the night, hoping that they wouldn't run out of gas before the drive had been completed.
March 10, 1945.
This morning we pulled out at 0700 for Andernach-on-the-Rhine where the Platoon took over a Telephone Exchange as billets.
Before the day was over the Platoon captured about forty prisoners from buildings and cellars. The only reason the men were so anxious to capture prisoners was the fact that P38 s and Lugers made very good souvenirs. In addition to the pistols, the men also acquired some very good Shotguns, swords and daggers from the civilians who had to turn them over as ordered by the Military Government.
The streets were littered with abandoned German vehicles, wagons, hundreds of both living and dead horses, due to the fact that equipment and supplies could not be taken across the Rhine River as all the bridges were out and our artillery kept any boats from crossing. Our forces raced to the Rhine so fast that we surprised the enemy before they could withdraw.
We were shelling the far bank of the Rhine all day and they continued to shell the rock walled terraces all night.
March 11, 1945.
Loder's Birthday today.
Erger received the good news that he had been waiting for the past two months. He is a papa of a baby boy born March 5th. Another Frigidaire Salesman.
McWhirk, Buch and Platky found enough equipment to develop films for the fellows in the platoon.
Our duties for the day was guarding the Telephone Building and those not on guard continued to search houses and captured a few Germans still in hiding.
March 12, 1945.
We were informed today that Colonel Bell in command of CCB and General Holbrook in command of CCA were here in Andernach in the year 1917. This time they had the pleasure of capturing the City with their troops.
Another important happening today was a phone call from the Telephone Building we were occupying to Coblenz. A German soldier on the receiving end seemed surprised when he answered the phone. The Military Authorities were well pleased with the capture of this important telephone Exchange, because everything was intact.
Brown was evacuated today due to an infected hand.
March 13, 1945.
General Kilburn, for some reason unknown to us was relieved of his command, and General Dager took over the command.
We pulled guard at the City Hall where the Burgermeister had his office and guard was a break for the souvenir hunters.
March 14, 1945.
We pulled out at about 1100 to rejoin our Company in Ettringen, where we secured some nice billets.
On our way to Ettringen we passed through Mayen and we were surprised to see how ruined it was from bomb raids on the Railroad yards. At least three fourths of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.
About 2130 we saw a burning plane while it was flying across the sky with innumerable tracer bullets chasing after it. It looked like a ball of fire as it crashed to the ground, landing not more than two hundred yards from our billets. Luckily it landed in an open field. All the fellows ran to the spot where it fell but it was impossible to get close to the plane because of the extreme heat and flying bullets which were exploding due to the fire.
March 15, 1945.
Early in the morning the fellows went out to look over the wrecked and burned out plane. We found by its wood construction that it was a "Mosquito Bomber". Some of the switch parts were made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The plane was scattered out for about 175 feet. The pilot was 150 feet from the plane, burned and mangled beyond recognition.
The day was taken up mostly by the fellows preparing boxes for their souvenirs. McWhirk, Buch and Platky developed film for the men.
March 16, 1945.
About 1600 we started on another drive toward Ludwigshafen. We passed through Kotterheim, Thur, Trimbs, Polch, Kuhrig, Dungenheim, Kaisersesch and bivouacked in Driesch.
It rained for a couple of hours making it miserable for all of us, particularly the drivers.
Brown rejoined the Platoon during the day.
March 17, 1945.
Our Platoon joined the 63rd Infantry at 1400. When we got there we found that the 285th Combat Engineers were attached to us.
At about 1600 we started out on another drive. At Bullay we came to the Moselle River. Here the bridges were blown and the 87th Division Engineers had put across a wooden ponton bridge about 150 feet long.
In Merl and Zell the infantry was still rounding up Germans from cellars and hillsides. All along the Moselle River we passed the famous grape orchards on the steep hillsides. We also saw some huge 1000 gallon wood barrels used for wine. These barrels lined the streets by the dozens.
It was about 2300 when we pulled into a bivouac area just before Loffilsheim. We stood guard around the 58th Field Artillery for the night.
March 18, 1945.
Taking off at 0900 we stopped in Kappel for a little while. We saw the boys from the 89th Infantry marching through the town.
We continued on -- going slowly, stopping often. During one of the breaks, word came back that Capt. Blackburn, had stepped on a Schu-mine while looking over a log road block. He lost his right foot and broke the other.
All day long German soldiers would come walking, unescorted, down the road with their hands held high over their heads.
Coming to Kirchberg about 16Q0 we stopped for a while and then took over a saw mill, where we stayed for the night.
Austin and Darroch were evacuated to the hospital.
We were told that Austin, who was our oldest man in the Platoon, would not return again because of his ailment. He was always in there when the going was tough and we will always remember "Pop".
March 19, 1945.
On the drive again at 0715. We went through Dickenshied, Gemunden, and stopped in Rimmern where we stayed for a while, then took off again for Martinstein.
In Martinstein we found that the Germans had blown the bridge over the Nahe River. The bridge had been captured intact by the Fourth Armored Division. The Jerries let three tanks go over and when a peep was on it, then blew it up, killing four Yanks.
The third platoon and the bulldozer from the 285th Engineers had been left there to build a treadway bridge over the river.
Our platoon was called upon to help the third platoon. There were plenty of pine corduroy coming and we worked on the far side. We crossed the river by fording it in a "tank-recovery" tank, the water being about three feet deep and very swift.
While we were working on the site, many prisoners who had surrendered or were captured, were made to wade across the river with their hands over their heads. We had many laughs, because quite a number of them were scared to cross the river, and in doing so many were swept under and soaked.
After the bridge was completed, it measured eighty-four feet, using seven lengths of steel treadway.
We then returned to Simmern and retired for the night, at about 2300, in a school house.
March 20, 1945.
We were up a little late and had to make a mad dash to catch up with our column.
We passed through some beautiful terrain and on some of the high peaks we could see for forty or fifty miles. In one place we could see twenty fires raging, caused by our artillery, mortar and bombs. Along the roads we passed all kinds of wrecked German vehicles. We passed a blown out railroad bridge and at the base of one of the pillars the Germans wrote the following inscription, "You Want Berlin—Moscow Wants You" "Onward Slaves of Moscow".
We had to dig in several times before getting into the town of Albisheim. We arrived there about 2200 and immediately swept the streets and found about thirty mines. We took billets in a "Large Inn" and beer joint or Gasthaus. Fisher, Gandy, Thorpe and a number of others were very thirsty.
March 21, 1945.
We were up early and the fellows started their search for souvenirs.
One house that was broken into and searched was without a doubt a Nazi Headquarters and the fellows made a good job of searching. A safe was in one of the rooms and the engineers decided to open it. Instead of working as expert demolition men, it appeared more like a class on demolition. After four attempts, they finally blasted it open. Results - - house was completely ruined and nothing of importance found in the safe.
We left Albisheim and arrived in Monsheim about 1700, where we took over a billet which was a combination banquet and town hall. It was full of beds and furniture, stored from bombed out houses.
March 22, 1945.
We went out to work on a bombed Railroad overpass. The Jerries had placed a half dozen wagons and teams of horses under it and then blew the bridge down on them. The horses were alive and when the wagons caught fire the horses were badly burned and maimed to death by the rocks. It was a horrible sight to see. A 75 SP gun crushed under the debris also added to our miseries in clearing the mess.
March 23, 1945.
Resumed work clearing the debris at the overpass.
Capt. Ardery our new Company Commander gave a nice talk and we know he will make a very good leader, for we had him once before for a few weeks on the Desert.
March 24, 1945.
The 45th Infantry Division of the Seventh Army, started moving into town. They took over and we moved out heading north.
As we drove on we could see the farmers getting ready for spring planting, fixing seed drills, plowing and cleaning up war wreckage.
It was a beautiful day. We also passed many 4th Armored Division vehicles bivouacked in towns and fields along our route of march.
We arrived in Eimsheim after passing various groups of outfits from the Seventh Army.
We found very nice billets with running water. Nester, hooked up the necessary wires from the generators, which we had on our Platoon truck, connecting them to the wires in the house and results were good. Each room had light.
March 25, 1945.
Packed boxes with souvenirs for shipment to our folks at home and also maintained our equipment.
March 26, 1945.
Did more packing of souvenirs.
J. Gray drew the lucky number and received a pass to Paris.
Lt. Donnell was transferred to "B" Company and we certainly felt bad about the change because he was a real Platoon Leader.
March 27, 1945.
It rained all night and part of the morning.
Made a thirty six mile round trip in our halftracks for a much needed shower but the Shower Unit had moved out that morning. What awful language the fellows used, when they were disappointed.
We were informed that we had been placed under the 20th Corps, including the 80th and 94th Infantry Divisions and two Cavalry Regiments. When the 80th and 94th reach their objectives on the Rhine we were to follow and try to exploit a breakthrough. We were also informed that the 4th and 6th Armored Divisions were standing still due to lack of gasoline. We didn't like to hear that, because we knew that would prove costly on our part giving the Germans the opportunity to "dig in".
Every night, enemy planes tried to strafe our outfits along the Rhine River. Late in the evening we saw plenty of fireworks along the Rhine. Jerry planes tried to bomb our bridge but the planes were discouraged when our "Ack Ack" and other large guns opened up on them. However, no enemy planes were knocked down.
We hadn't acquired a Platoon Leader so S/Sgt. Meyer took over.
March 28, 1945.
Jovich was transferred to Headquarters Platoon to replace Smither's on the Air Compressor. "Two Gun" Warner from Texas or Oklahoma (we can't tell yet) was assigned to drive Schnable's halftrack. (The other squads kept their fingers crossed for the remainder of the war while he was at the wheel).
We pulled out at 1100 and began our drive across the Rhine. We saw many Engineer outfits of all types; Bridge, Combat and General Service.
We crossed the Rhine over bridges built by the Engineers, at Nierstein south of Oppenheim. As we approached the town, we saw vast clouds of smoke going up. Portable units were at work and the town and river were covered with a fog, although the sun was shining brilliantly, we couldn't see more than thirty yards ahead of us. It was known as "smog".
When we approached the bridge a sudden gush of wind must have cleared the smoke sufficiently for us to see the entire ponton bridge. The rubber pontons were set about thirty inches apart and there were about 150 of them across the river. The Rhine was swift and had a nice blue color.
On the other side we turned north, passing through Geinsheim. We came to a bivouac area near a rocket launching site used by the Germans. We "dug in" and prepared our bedrolls for a good nights sleep.
About 2330 we were awakened with orders to be ready to move out immediately. We had breakfast with the Infantry which consisted of oatmeal and coffee and it was very good. It wasn't until 0100 when we started off.
March 29, 1945.
Taking off at 0100 we turned southeast going on very good macadam roads, sailing along at an average of twenty miles an hour. We passed through a medium size city of Gr. Berau and came to a cobblestone highway, four lanes wide, then drove east arriving in Darmstadt. Here was a picture of bombed out buildings comparable to St. Vith. The population was about 60,000 people but with just a few houses left intact, it is doubtful if more than 5,000 people could be housed.
After going through Darmstadt we continued on through Messal, Offenthal, Ober Rodon and finally pulled off of the road at Weisenheim, where we hit the hay about 0530. But at 0730, we were awakened and told to "load up". At 0800 we were headed for Hanau, passing through Dudenhofen and Seligenstadt. In Seligenstadt there were many civilians on the streets, refugees of all kinds and slave laborers headed for home again. The former French slave workers where making the German civilians give them bread and coffee.
We crossed another ponton bridge over the Main River. After passing through the town of Kahl we continued our drive through Krotzenberg, Hainstadt, Gr. Auheim and to Hanau. Hanau was another picture of utter ruin and destruction. The entire center of the city was a mess of wreckage. Another San Francisco earthquake couldn't have made it any worse. We continued the drive after passing through Hanau, going by Ruckingen and on to Langanselbold. We pulled into an open field and were proudly greeted by two enemy shells. We stayed there from about 1400 to 1700 while our artillery threw shells at a town behind a hill from us. German soldiers were supposed to be in the town, called Langanselbold. After dark we moved into the outskirts of the town. Our platoon took over two houses for the night. Just outside of Langanselbold we saw four of our tanks knocked out. "A" Company from the 133rd Combat Engineers were now attached to our Combat Command.
March 30, 1945.
What a war!! Off again at 0800, going through Rothenburgen and stopping in Lieblos at 1130. The Germans resisted and so our artillery worked over the town of Gelnhausen which they were stoutly defending.
Gandy, McAllister and Brown appointed a new Burgermeister (the old one a Nazi, had fled with the German soldiers the day before) and told him to get the people to bring in their guns, cameras, swords etc. Results were very good.
At 2200, Buch's squad was assigned to clear some demolition and mines from a bridge, taking with him, Platky, Gandy McAllister and Bullock driving the Halftrack. S/Sgt. Meyer went ahead with the peep. They removed about three hundred pounds of TNT and returned to our billets in Lieblos by 0100. A little artillery made things exciting for them.
March 31, 1945.
We were up at 0830 and prepared to move out. While loading the vehicles someone dropped a case of C-rations on Buch's fingers, almost tearing one of his fingers off. T/3 Coseno, our medic, immediately applied first aid.
We took off at 1030 and made another thirty four mile dash. Buch's vehicle dropped out of the convoy during the day because of motor trouble.
The rest of the platoon pulled in at Breitenbach where they secured billets.
April 1, 1945.
Our platoon, less Buch's squad, continued on the drive, covering sixty four miles, stopping in Reichenhausen. German Prisoners were coming in fast.
Buch's squad in the meantime, had their halftrack repaired and started to catch up with the Platoon. At Wallroth they took the wrong road, following a couple of peeps, a half-ton truck and a Tank destroyer. These vehicles stopped eventually, so Buch asked one of the officers for a map. Whereupon the officer asked, "Are you lost too?" Then and there they decided to turn back and as they did one of the men cried out, "Lord, look at the Heinies!!"
The railroad near there ran parallel to the road which was about three hundred yards away where the men saw a German machine gun
crew walking along the tracks. In front of our vehicles the men could see a number of Germans on a crest of a hill.
Bullock started to turn his halftrack around when suddenly a HE shell the bank near the Tank Destroyer who was also turning around at the time. Another shell came over and it hit the TD. Bullock tried to back the halftrack but the trailer jack-knifed. Buch and Brown unhooked the trailer immediately. The shells and small arms fire were coming in fast. At least ten AP shells landed around the track miraculously missing the men and track.
Platky fell of the halftrack and Buch hollered out to him and asked, "What's wrong, are you hit?" and he replied "Yeah, look at my rear". Sure enough he was hit by a rifle bullet through his buttocks.
While all of the vehicles were turning around the rest of the men took cover. Buch then called to them to load up on the double. The TD and peeps had already taken off, leaving Buch's squad all alone. As their halftrack pulled away the Germans did everything to knock them out with small arms fire. About a thousand yards from their original takeoff, they caught up with the TD and peeps who were waiting. All of them kept firing back at the Germans.
A P-47 pilot, whose plane had been grounded a few days before, behind German lines had successfully evaded the Germans and when he saw the American Vehicles he left his hiding place near there to join them. However, he had been injured on the foot by our own artillery, when he happened to be in the same woods which the Germans were defending.
Brown helped the pilot, a 1st Lieutenant, to the halftrack. Then all the vehicles took off again for Wallroth. On their way back they saw the P-47 plane in an open field.
The Pilot and Platky were taken to a 1st aid station and eventually evacuated to the hospital. The squad finally secured the pilots name; Wallace D. McMillin, 407 N. Wentz, Guthrie, Oklahoma.
After checking the squad, they discovered that McWhirk was missing. The last time anyone saw him was at the time they were ambushed, and he was seen taking cover into the woods. Buch reported to Capt. Ardery by radio.
The track was almost in two and a bogey wheel was damaged by enemy fire. The halftrack was taken to "B" Trains for maintenance.
April 2, 1945.
The platoon took off again, penetrating another twenty four miles, taking billets for the night in Untermassfield.
Buch's squad in the meantime, had their halftrack repaired and later met our Kitchen Truck following the column with "B" Trains. They took Browe and O'Brien in the squad to replace Platky and McWhirk. They drove to Wallroth and inquired about the town of Fleiden where they were ambushed the day before, and were informed that the town had been taken. The squad proceeded to Fleiden and found he trailer they had abandoned and much to their disappointment every piece of souvenir had been ransacked. The men searched the area '-or any possible clues of McWhirk's whereabouts but could not find any. Suddenly a rifle shot was heard, the bullet hitting the dirt close to Gandy. The squad loaded up on the halftrack and manned their guns. Bullock drove the halftrack up the road, while Gandy fired the BAR, Brown opened up with the 30 caliber machine gun and O'Brien opened up with the 50 Caliber machine gun. The rest of the squad fired their M-1 rifles. A German gun fired on the halftrack and came very near hitting it. They finally made it around a bend in the road and the enemy shells were ineffective.
Buch inquired about our platoon several times with outfits along the road and the only answer he could get is "Yes, they had been there at one time but they were traveling fast and that you would have to fly if you planned to catch up."
April 3, 1945.
The Platoon (less Buch's squad) left Untermassfield for Suhl, with a small task force of TDs, light tanks and the Cavalry. About twenty kilometers north of Suhl, we took up positions on a hill overlooking a small town. - We could see a number of Germans in the town and fired on them but they would not return the fire. Within three minutes we were told to attack the town and then the order was rescinded. About 1700 we withdrew from the hill and took up outpost positions on the right flank of Suhl. We stuck our necks out on this assignment, which were outposts about five hundred yards in front of our own Infantry who were holding the front line. We captured two Germans who were trying to get back with their Company. After interrogating them we found out that the Germans were pretty much disorganized due to our spearhead drive into Germany. They went on to say that the Germans couldn't get enough supplies of food and ammunition.
Buch's halftrack broke down again after almost catching the Division and had to have a wrecker tow him to our Headquarters Company for maintenance and had it completely overhauled.
April 4, 1945.
We took off early and captured the city of Suhl, where our task force freed thousands of slave workers. We captured hundreds of larger guns and German equipment. The town itself had many factories, producing guns, pistols and rockets. It was here that the famous Suhl Pistol was manufactured. We acquired two beautiful apartments for billets, with running water and electric lights. What a deal.
April 5, 1945.
We rested in Suhl also picked up more souvenirs.
Garrett and Hodson went out and did not return.
April 6, 1945.
Garrett and Hodson had not yet returned so they were reported missing to our 1st Sgt. We started out for another drive that afternoon but the task force meet stiff opposition on the other side of Suhl. Our artillery promptly opened up on the Germans. We returned to our billets in Suhl and received a big surprise. Every piece of furniture, dishes and clothing in the house was broken and damaged by the French and Polish slave workers. We took over another apartment nearby.
April 7, 1945.
We left Suhl about 0700 and on our way we met some of the men from our Third Platoon. We found out that they were ambushed early in the morning while on their way to clear a roadblock. They were almost encircled, but most of the platoon got away. However, Zoradi, Myers and Maribal were killed, Sellers, Allison, Heiser, Celani, Test, and Reese were wounded. Tuggy, Jovich and Leone were missing. Zoradi received the DSC, for his heroic efforts in fighting the Germans until he was killed.
Our Platoon cleared three roadblocks before stepping in Hildburghausen. We also put in a treadway in Altendamback. Skutchen found a police dog and after investigating he called her "Lady".
We set up outposts on the outskirts of Hildburghausen, in line with three TDs, the Infantry and Cavalry. Several Germans were seen on the crest of the hill but no shots were fired.
Fisher's squad was sent back to Altendamback to guard the bridge.
April 8, 1945.
We were awakened with a Bang about 0600. We were told that a German tank opened up on our TD s knocking one of them out. Plenty of small arms fire started pouring in. We immediately took up positions figuring that the Germans would try to counter-attack. It was all quiet after twenty minutes and no one was reported hurt.
Clark's 2-1/2 ton truck and Gray's halftrack were hit by German rifle fire, damaging the radiator on the halftrack and puncturing the gas tank in the truck. Both vehicles had to be towed to the 133rd Ordnance for repairs.
About noon the Platoon moved out and took billets in Hildburghausen.
April 9, 1945.
T/5 Boles came by this morning with the payroll.
Fisher's squad continued to guard the bridge in Altendamback.
Buch's squad finally caught up with us today and obliged us by bringing three cases of eggs for the Platoon.
Dorsey, Gray, Hohenthaner, Thorpe, Loder and T/3 Coseno (lets keep moving medic), prepared delicious dinners for their squads, consisting of plates, knives, forks and spoons. Beer was an added attraction.
April 10, 1945.
Fisher's squad returned to the platoon and all four squads were intact again.
At 1030 we drove on again to Oberlauter.
Near Coburg we saw how our P 47 s operate. We had some wonderful seats, so to speak, on a hill overlooking the city of Coburg. Our artillery would place a shell in the area where we spotted some Germans and their vehicles. Our P47 s guided by these bursts would dive down and drop their bombs. Our planes must have loosed at least twenty bombs.
We slept in Overlauter for the night.
April 11, 1945.
We left Oberlauter at 0800 and worked on a treadway bridge in Oaulow. We slept for the night in a house on the other side of the river, a mile from Coburg.
April 12, 1945.
The squads took turns guarding the bridge and maintaining the road approaches to the treadway bridge.
We left Oaulow about 0700 and drove on to Kronach spending the night there. Clark, Nester and MacFarland picked up another Generator for our own lighting system. Cleared a huge log roadblock before we entered Kronach.
April 13, 1945.
We drove on again meeting little resistance and in most cases we would pass up any sniper fire, letting our Infantry who were behind us clean them out. At one place our platoon spotted some Germans on top of a hill and we called out to them in their German tongue to surrender and it didn't take them very long to come down with their hands up, glad to call it quits.
We cleared several road blocks outside of Kulmbach, then pushed on to Untersteinach where we billeted for the night.
Lair and Verbaum joined our Platoon again and we were glad to see them. Lair who was wounded, said he had to eat standing up for several weeks. Verbaum who suffered a severe case of frozen feet, was well and happy again and ready to go. They went back to Fisher's squad.
April 14, 1945.
We had an opportunity to pack more souvenir boxes.
Saw two huge Ten inch Railroad Guns. The Germans tried their best to destroy them but they only blew out the breech block.
Ate with the kitchen again and were we happy!!!
April 15, 1945.
Another day for cleaning, packing and a little maintenance.
O'Connor won the lucky ca rd to go back to the States on the "Rotation Plan". Our Kitchen ran out of Rations, so we had to prepare our own meals and some were sumptuous repasts of chicken and steak and champagne.
April 16, 1945.
Another day of rest and getting our souvenirs packed.
T/5 Ader our "Arms" man, was snooping around finding out how many different types of weapons we were carrying. If he wasn't so big and full of muscles there wouldn't be a man in the Company afraid to take him on, just on general principals.
April 17, 1945.
General Holbrook in command of CCA, inspected us in ranks, which we thought was very unusual in time of war.
Saw a movie this afternoon entitled, "The Doughgirls".
April 18, 1945.
Left Untersteinach and moved into Neu Dossenfeld.
April 19, 1945.
On the drive again at 0830, going through Bayreuth and stopping in Pressath. Lost "Blackie", R. Gray's little pup.
April 20, 1945.
Left Pressath about 0700. We were almost ambushed by a squad of Germans with Panzerfausts and Machine pistols. We killed three of them and captured seven. We continued on to Huttin, Kaltenbrun and Frehing, returning to Grafenwohr for the night. Grafenwohr was similar to our Fort Knox, and called "The Ft. Knox of Germany".
April 21, 1945.
Left Grafenwohr at 1300 and pushed on to Neustadt, setting up outposts in train cars originally used by the Red Cross. It was dark when we got there and we almost fought our own troops who thought we were Germans and vice versa. It was cold and raining.
April 22, 1945.
Took off again with the 41st Cavalry pushing on to Nabburg. Spent the night there guarding a bridge. Removed a large log road block near Wieden and captured six Germans who were defending it. Loder, Parks, Bullock and Schroeder captured forty-eight Germans in one factory.
April 23, 1945.
Off again at 0500. Several ME 109s flew high overhead but we must have discouraged them with our fire power.
On this day our Combat Commands, liberated 1100 English and 130 American Prisoners of War. This was a sight we shall never forget The English soldiers looked like they were taken care of fairly well but when we saw our own half starved Americans it made us very angry. The Germans got a taste of our feelings the next few days because we stopped trying to be sportsmen and gave them a taste of their own type of warfare.
We passed on through Cham which was fairly beaten up by our artillery. Jovich, Test and Tuggy were released from a German Hospital in Cham. They were very happy to see us again, and are now back in the States.
A German plane flew close to the ground and over our column, some of the vehicles getting a few bursts at the plane.
The second Platoon kept on going with the 41st Cavalry to Niltach where we set up outposts to keep a couple of bridges secure and intact.
April 24, 1945.
Gallagher was on guard early in the morning when a Kraut Plane, ME 109 flew low over our area. Gallagher fired the 50 caliber at the plane and instead of hitting the plane he shot down the electric wires causing us to be without lights in our billets. He was made to apologize for displaying poor marksmanship.
April 25, 1945.
Took of early, clearing several road blocks on the way to Bodenmais, Erger's halftrack broke down and had to fall out of the column. The second platoon less the second squad continued on the drive with the 41st Cavalry. At 2030, they encountered one of the largest roadblocks they had ever experienced and with the help of civilians they cleared the road. They took billets in Bodenmais and stood guard on several intact bridges outside of town. It was clear and cold, on the mountains we could see much snow.
In the meantime, Erger's squad, who had been doing a darn good job throughout this war, had to withdraw to the rear in order to protect the rest of the platoon who were a few miles ahead. After working frantically all night on Gray's halftrack they hurriedly joined the rest of the platoon the next day, who were lost without them.
April 26, 1945.
Left Bodenmais, which was the first town we had seen lighted at night on this continent. By 0800, Erger's squad caught up with us.
We passed through the town of Regan and stopped in Kreuzberg. During the day we captured forty German nurses who were with a field hospital.
April 27, 1945,
Brown was evacuated due to an eye injury.
At 1100 we moved out with the 41st Cavalry to Grainet. On the way we saw a real "dog fight" between several P-51 s and ME109s. Our planes were the victors, shooting down five German planes, while losing none.
Our Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Inge was wounded that morning by a strafing plane. Major Allen took over the command.
1st and 2nd Platoons worked on bypass and ford, over river near Friyung.
We billeted for night in Grainet.
April 28, 1945.
The Platoon less Buch's squad went out on patrol with one Platoon of Cavalry, crossing the Czech Border, returning to Grainet late that night. Ohrt, MacFadden, Maron and Tews joined us from the "Repple Depple".
April 29, 1945.
Buch's squad went out on patrol into Czechoslovakia with the Cavalry. They encountered some German Infantry, killing one and capturing several. They returned to Grainet in the afternoon.
Fisher's halftrack was condemned and dismantled of all accessories. After many heated arguments, Schnable, Erger and Buch finally consented to split up Fisher's squad and took them in. They could have used extra manpower, but due to the fact that there was a war going on they took the best that Fisher could offer.
We now had three squads again, handicapped of course, by Fisher's men, who had taken up space provided for our souvenirs.
Left Grainet at 1400 and on to Walloberg.
Erger was made the acting Platoon Sergeant.
April 30, 1945.
Drove to Kasberg where our column was held up on the Austrian Border. Three tanks were knocked out. Capt. Ardery and three men of the 1st platoon, Davidson, Owens and Davis, were wounded.
Our platoon went back to the left flank and set up outposts at Sonnen with the 41st Cavalry.
Rumor: Enemy had cut us off from the rear.
May 1, 1945.
During the night we had four inches of snow.
Left Sonnen at 0730, driving up through Kasberg and into Austria.
We encountered about two hundred Germans "dug in" on a hill to the left of us. Our infantry put up a tough fight, losing several of their men. Schnable lost one of his men, PFC. Max Able, when he was hit by a bullet in the leg. T/3 Coseno, applied first aid and had Able evacuated to the hospital.
After the battle on the hill, our Infantry accounted for sixty three Germans killed and capturing about 150 others. The infantry lost three men killed and ten wounded.
May 2, 1945.
The Germans resisted near Linz and our artillery promptly opened up on them.
We started towards Feuchtenbach but the Germans blew the bridge just before we entered the town. We sat tight on a hill overlooking the small town and the Germans threw three rounds of artillery fire at us, but did no damage. Lt. Collier, of the 41st Cavalry, spotted the German gun and had our 105s and 75s knock it out quickly, killing the Germans who were trying to flee.
Gallagher went into a house nearby to see if he could find some eggs, - - he came out with seven Krauts.
Saw something very unusual this day. It was one for "Believe it or not". A German soldier who had surrendered, was walking by our column with his hands raised over his head. His face was bleeding and we noticed that he had been shot through the forehead, the bullet coming out the back of his head!
We drew back from the hill near Feuchtenbach and slept in a barn about four kilometers away. That night we saw a German plane flying very low near our area and it seemed as though every weapon in the army fired upon it. Reports received later, stated that it was knocked down.
May 3, 1945.
We were on the move again at 0700, cleared several roadblocks and then forded a stream in Neufelden. Saw some more PW s we had liberated.
We continued the drive, capturing the town of Rottenegg, where we found billets for the night.
Schnable and Buch's squads continued on ahead to fill in some bomb craters returning to Rottenegg about 0700. Had to blow some steel rails.
Meyer and Reed had some very close ones, while on reconnaissance with the 41st Cavalry, when the Germans threw mortar fire on their column. No one was hurt.
May 4, 1945.
We left at 0600, cleared a couple of abatis and then moved on to Neusserling where we took over a farm house for the night.
May 5, 1945.
We were up at 0330 and moved out at 0430, pushing on to Gramastetten near St. Magdalena.
Schnable's squad was sent ahead to clear an abatis on the road to Linz, after it was cleared the 41st Cavalry and our Platoon started into Linz. This was at 1100 and we were the first units to enter this city.
Our hearts were pumping faster and faster every minute, as we headed towards the outskirts of Linz not knowing what to expect. We entered the City, without a shot fired, and we could see large crowds of people standing in the streets. As we came near to them they started to shout and cheer as if they were wild. Passing them, they waved, cheered louder, some threw flowers in our vehicles, which was a great surprise to us and we could hardly believe our eyes.
We drove quickly to the Danube River where there were two bridges. Schnable's squad took charge of one bridge, Fisher and Buch's squads took charge of the other, removing approximately 2500 pounds of dynamite from both bridges.
After our work was completed, the people swarmed us, some speaking English and all of them trying to ask questions, at the ame tirne.
Things quieted down a little after an hour, giving Fisher, R. Gray, Thorpe and a few others an opportunity to collect several cases of whiskey. Kramer had a gleam in his eye for a certain gal. Photo 'Bugs" went wild too.
Later in the afternoon we took off for a little town called Swarzendorf, billeting in a farmhouse and barn. Tonia, the Russian girl, gave us all the milk we could drink.
May 6, 1945.
Buch's squad left with the 41st Cavalry on patrol to the north. They traveled twenty-six miles, going through Summrau, Frankenfeld, Schenkenfelden and Rainbach, picking up 500 prisoners. The squad prepared some charges and destroyed twenty-four 105s, Rocket Tubes and several tanks that were found on railroad cars. Thurston captured a trainload of DP s and eleven guards!
Rumors spreading fast of VE day.
May 7, 1945.
Fisher's squad left with the 41st Cavalry on patrol to Freistadt, capturing many prisoners, including two German Wacs, who had the pleasure of riding in R. Gray's halftrack. The German prisoners informed us that they were told over the radio to lay down their "arms".
We were informed by our Officers, not to fire on any Germans or German planes unless they fire on us first.
May 8, 1945.
Schnable's squad left with the 41st Cavalry on patrol towards Freistadt, capturing more and more prisoners.
The Platoon, less Schnable's squad, left Swarzendorf and moved into Urfahrwhere the Company had billets provided for all. Schnable's squad joined us in the afternoon.
At 2401, "VE" day was officially announced over the radio. We were happy to know that it was a finished job in Europe, making the score Two Down and One To Go. That "One to Go" was the Japs, and our thoughts quickly turned to the Pacific. Are we slated to fight Japan? That may be another story.
May 9, 1945.
It didn't take us long to clean our vehicles and arrange our personal belongings in the morning. In the afternoon we walked through the town of Linz. The heart of the city was not badly damaged, but near the outskirts, the industrial section, the buildings and railways were badly bombed by our Planes.
May 10, 1945.
The platoon went to the Concentration Camp near Mauthausen this day and saw some appalling sights. We cannot describe the horrors, the sufferings, the smell and all conceivable atrocities committed by the Germans. At the time we were there, thousands were being buried. We were tolŪd that hundreds will die for the next few weeks because it was impossible to save the ones who were beyond the help of medical care.
The Army made it compulsory for the civilians near there to see these atrocities. The remarks from some of the civilians were, "We didn't know that this was going on", "We didn't do this, it was the SS who were at fault", "We did hear that something like this was going on but we were afraid to say anything because the SS would kill us too", and so on. In other words, the German people, now that they have been defeated, are trying to say that they did not want war and all the atrocities committed were executed by SS men.
The Allies have done a thorough job of defeating Germany but it will take strong supervision on our part to keep Germany in her place, and peace in the world forever.
The men who were in our Platoon when VE day was announced were as follows:
Headquarters 1st Squad 2nd Squad 3rd Squad
S/Sgt. Meyer Sgt. Schnable Sgt. Fisher Cpl. Buch
Sgt. Erger Cpl. Smoot Cpl. Kramer Pfc. Gray, J.
Sgt. Gallagher Pfc. Thorpe T/4 Dorsey T/5 Hohenthaner
Cpl. Nester Pfc. Warner T/4 Skutchan Pfc. Thurston
T/5 Clark T/5 Harden T/5 Dugan Pfc. Greer
Pfc. Reed Pfc. Gildow T/5 Gray, R. Pfc. Mc Allister
T/3 Coseno Pfc. Ohrt T/5 Schroeder Pfc. Tews
Pfc. Harred T/5 Loder Pfc. McFadden
Pfc. Dombroski Pfc. Maron T/5 Bullock
Pfc. Lair Pfc. Short T/5 Mc Farland
Pfc. Verbaum Pfc. Shanechuck Pfc. Gandy
Pfc. Parks Pfc. Hughes
T/5 Smith, G. F.
Men in the Hospital Pfc. Able Pfc. Brown Pvt. Platky
Missing in Action Pvt. Garrett Pfc. McWhirk Pvt. Hodson
We received a letter from Pfc. McWhirk stating that he was captured by the Germans. After he was freed by the Americans he was returned to the United States.
Pfc. Able was transferred to a hospital back to the United States
Pfc. Brown and Pvt. Platky are now back with the Platoon.
Pvts. Garrett and Hodson were reported found in France.
Comments written by the "Stars and Stripes":
TANKS MADE 500 MILE DASH FROM CHANNEL TO THE BUI,GE.
With the Eleventh Armored Division; February 9, 1945. The announcement that the 11th Armored Division had played a major role in the fight to save Bastogne revealed new evidence of the mobility of American Armored units.
En route to France across the English Channel at the time Von Rundstedt launched his push, the 11th Armored Division rushed to the Ardennes.
Commanded by Brigadier General Charles S. Kilburn, the Thunderbolt Division tanks rolled more than 500 miles after hastily assembling at the beach. Reaching the area of Neufchateau December 29, 1944, the green tanker clashed in a slugfest, the following morning with some of Rundstedt's most seasoned troops.
PROTECTED VITAL ROAD.
The mission of the 11th in its first attack was to protect the vital Bastogne-Neufchateau road, the only ground supply link from Bastogne to Allied Armies. Fighting in close coordination with the Infantry, the 11th smashed the German Armor back six miles in four days capturing numerous towns. Among them were Rechrival, Jodenville, Chenogne, Lavaselle and Mande St. Etienne.
As the Allied nut-cracker closed on the German Bulge, the 11th drove on with other Third Army units and took the towns of Bertogne, Compogne, Rastadt and Velleroux.
On January 16, 1945, after a night of bucking mines, snowdrifts and thick woods, elements of the Thunderbolt Division's 41st Cavalry, Reconnaissance Squadron contacted the First Army's Second Armored Division at Houffalize. Later the same day, massed armor of the Division took the heights above Houffalize and closed the German escape gap to the East,
It is worthwhile to quote directly from operations report of G-3 regarding Engineer Operations during the period January 20th to January 21st inclusive:
"56th ARMORED ENGINEER BATTALION: Engineer operations were particularly vital during this period as the enemy was fighting a delayed action and used mines and demolitions extensively. In addition, road conditions were extremely hazardous due to ice and heavy snow, drifting to a height of six feet in some areas. Bridges were erected, or repaired, and maintained at MABOMPRE, HARDIGNY and at BOEUR. Roads were cleared and critical stretches sanded throughout the Division Area, the work on the roads East from HARDIGNY, BOURCEY and BOEUR to the Division objective, being particularly noteworthy for the night of 20—21 January, the Engineers were given the mission of clearing and maintaining four secondary routes of mines and snow from major unit assembly areas to attack positions in the vicinity of WANDERBOURCY—BOEUR—BOIS CHENNET. All personnel worked the entire night to accomplish this mission successfully."
"For the Engineers the concluding phase of the battle of the Bulge was that of clearance. Roads had to be swept of mines, cleared of snow and again swept of mines. Bulldozers paced the Combat Commands attack, "A" Company put in twenty four feet of treadway bridge in HARDIGNY and "C" Company put in thirty six feet of treadway bridge at BOEUR."
"On the 21st of January, the Division being withdrawn, "A" Company remained with CCA at HOLT De TAVIGNY."
The following news story, from the New York Post is by Russell Davenport, eminent war correspondent.
WITH THE 11th ARMORED DIVISION, May 2, 1945 — Every day, the people of the United States are going into debt. It is not a money debt, it is a blood debt.
It is a credit to the boys who have driven eastward across the whole of western Europe and are still driving despite cockeyed peace rumors
There is no doubt in my mind that the most important "secret weapon" of this war is the tremendous driving power of the Americans. These boys of General Dager's 11th Armored Division have never been in reserve for more than a few days at a time since they landed at Cherbourg last December. According to the speedometer of one of the original headquarters halftracks, they have traveled 1,599 miles as of this morning. These are not merely road miles, they are combat miles
I watched one company of the 55th Infantry deploy up a steep hill to oust fanatical i; troops that were flanking our column from a woods on the left. That was when I got the idea that the people of the United States are going into debt in a way that they don't altogether realize.
A tremendous screen of machine-gun fire from our halftracks poured over our heads into the woods and our armored artillery lobbed shells into a big farmhouse which burst into flames. With bitterness in our hearts, we watched a Nazi machine-gunner on the top of the hill above the doughboys poke his head up, fire, and disappear.
And we saw the doughboys, fall as his gun spat, and some of them stayed there. It isn't as if they had to do it once, they have to do it maybe several times a day when the division meets resistance like this.
And each time they do this, a few of them are left behind. After you've done this for 1,599 miles your country owes you something but the debt isn't easy to pay.
These tense, tired, slogging men aren't dumb; they know there's something needed that the U. S. didn't have before the war. You can't define it in a word. It isn't just a big army and navy, it just isn't an "international" foreign policy.
It's what America really is - - only you don't realize what America really is until you see them going up there to get the bastards out of the woods. It's a question of every citizen in the U. S. doing the 1,599 combat miles of whatever it is he or she has to do. It's a question of doing it all over again after you've given everything you've got to do it once.Back to "Our History"