3rd Platoon, A Company, 56th Engineer Battalion
The information set down in this book is a record of the activities of the 3rd platoon, Co. A, 56th Armored Engineer Battalion, since its departure from Camp Cooke, California up to V-E Day, which found the unit in the vicinity of Linz, Austria.
We wish to pay tribute in this journal to the men of this organization who gave their lives in the performance of their duties against the enemy and to the men of the platoon as a whole. It was a job well done.
The information contained herein was compiled and written by: Cpl. Hewitt J. Fontaine T/5 Hugo Balma Cpl. Donald L. Ouant.
After approximately three months of final training, unnecessary preparations and rumors, that usually precede any troop movement or activity, we boarded a filthy train, and to our surprise moved out in record time with a minimum of confusion. Even though few, if any, knew exactly where we were going, the consensus of opinion was that we were headed for a port of embarkation somewhere on the east coast. Details were kept at an all time army low during the first few days. Latrines and the cars themselves had the expert and undivided attention of Nagel who had not been careful enough in disposing of G.I. equipment while at Camp Cooke, which itself is hard enough to understand.
We rode on through California that day and night and part of the next day. The climate and topography of California closely compares with that of the country we are now in, Austria. We passed beautiful Donner Lake on our second day, and a more beautiful lake and surroundings few have never seen.
We rolled into the desert state of Nevada and regardless how hard Steve Zoradi tried, he had a hell of a time convincing anyone that Nevada was a state with anything more than sand and jack-rabbits, and damn few of the later.
The next on the list was Utah, and seeing that it has little, if any, representation within our organization, it caused little comment.
Next in line was the pride and joy of Nagel, Colorado, and the arguments could be heard from one end of the car to the other.
There was quite a bit of "chicken" throughout the trip, and it could practically all be attributed to a Major Mitchell.
Our pastime was occupied by a daily stop for calisthenics. Blackjack proved to be profitable enough for some of the fellows, but regardless of who won, the winnings were generally used in acquiring liquor at 10 bucks per. The result of these extra-curriculars, as they may be termed, was that most of the fellows remained slightly inebriated for the better part of the trip. One incident in connection with the above mentioned happened in Nebraska and is not likely to be forgotten. Skipper, Myers, Klaus, Balma, Parker and Fontaine purchased two bottles of "Private Stock", and what an appropriate name. A good substitute for varnish remover. If you can imagine, they had quite a time downing one quart, let alone the two of them. They had quite a time making it to bed that night and out of it the next morning.
We breezed through the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West VA., Washington D. C., back into Pennsylvania and finally after our fifth day of travel into the well known state of New Jersey We always made it a point to look up residents of each state as we went through so as to get an argument started. Nothing causes more concern with soldiers than a discussion involving their home states. All through the trip U. S. O. organizations met us at each stop and freely dished out refreshments.
We pulled into Camp Kilmer about ten o'clock at night and were immediately whisked off to our barracks for our stay there, which amounted to just seven days. The food was lousy. At long last, after five days of typical inspections and examinations, we were authorized passes. The bright lights of New York attracted many. We had two days of passes, when again we were alerted and passes were canceled.
Destination still unknown, but rumors still going as wild as they always do before a movement, we boarded the USS Hermitage in New York on the 28th of September to the tune of "Milkman Keep Those Bottles Quiet". Doughnuts and coffee was served by the Red Cross at 5:00 AM, on the 29th we headed into the Atlantic. Some of the gang suffered from seasickness most of the trip across. We arrived in the port of Southampton, Eng., on the 9th of October and disembarked on the 10th to the tune of "Have I Stayed Away Too Long". More doughnuts were served, but not for our benefit, thanks to Major Mitchell. We boarded a Limey train, which comes closer to comparing to a toy than anything else and arrived at Melksham, a town near our camp, Sandridge Park. A three-mile hike, completely equipped, followed.
After two months of alfs and alfs, 2/4's, cheese sandwiches, tea and cakes, and the distorted British sense of humor we set out for France on the 16th of December at 2:00 AM. We first sighted the coastal defenses of Cherbourg at about 3:00 PM. As could be expected everyone was astounded at the size, number of fortifications and the destruction caused by the Allied bombings. There were pill-boxes throughout the streets, many of which were completely "Kaput".
The French people were tired, dirty and hungry, but despite the adverse conditions under which they were living and had lived, the seemed extremely pleased to see us.
We drove inward about twenty miles and set up in an apple orchard for the night. We were near the town of Brickbecque and approximately five miles from St. Pierre. Pup-tents were pitched immediately and hot 'chow' from the kitchen followed. The Ôchow' was a welcome relief after the three meals we did not enjoy on the Limy ship across the Channel. It wasn't long before some of the boys got into action and started to provide us with liquid refreshments. Cognac, wine, cider and the substance referred to by the French as Calvados but called by the G.I.'s as "KICK-A-POO-JOY-JUICE". A storm was brewing that night, but that did not hinder operations any. Either as a result of the storm or calvados, an apple tree tangled with Cooper's and La Buffs' tent that night. We stayed there for the next day and pulled out early on the morning of the 18th.
From the 18th of December to the 23rd we spent traveling through France. It was exceptionally cold and clothing was inadequate. However, liquor was plentiful. We were originally scheduled for St. Nazairre but while we were camped in an old bombed-out airfield near Rennes the news of the Belgium breakthrough reached us and our route was immediately changed. It was while bivouacked in this area that we had our first taste of French night-life. We also had our first taste of beer in this area, and we all agreed that it was the next best thing to American brew.
We started out for showers in Rennes. We arrived at the local "Douches" (bathhouse), but in preference to being a little clean for a change, many of the boys scattered for the nearest cafe and as you may expect they tried to drink up the city's liquor supply in the short time we were allowed in town. Hughes and Salsman, along with our French speaking comrade, Fontaine, got so involved with the French that they overlooked the fact that a mixture of wine, cognac and beer on top of the ever present calvados wound up with disastrous results for the stomach.
We traveled approximately ninety miles a day going through such cities as St. Lo, Coutances, Paris, Chateau Thierry and Avaranches others. The Normandy Peninsula was the poorest section and suffered more as a result of the war than any other section in France. We passed through Reims on the afternoon of the 23rd and drove on to Camp Sissons where we put up for the night with the 82nd Airborne Division expecting to be there for D week or so. This was the longest and most successful forced march in Armored history.
Our stay at Sissons was a short one. We were awakened at 2:00 AM, given the general situation, packed most of our unnecessary equipment in our duffel bags, stored them and moved out at 6:00 AM. The camp was strafed by the Jerries the same night.
24 December 1944
Attached to CCA, A Co. was moved out ahead of the rest of the Bn. to the vicinity of Sedan and Charleyville to assist in the defense of the Meuse River from Sedan to Verdun from the German offensive which was only a few days old and threatened that area. The First Squad had the vital railroad bridge to guard; the Second Squad was set up at and guarded an intersection of the highway into town; the Third Squad was guarding the vital canal bridge in conjunction with the FFI. All bridges were prepared for demolition. During the night several German planes strafed and bombed the area. During the day we saw the bigger part of an Allied bombing mission headed for the Bastogne area. In spite of the many things that threatened the boys still found time to look over the potentialities of the town. Some of the finds included a champagne cellar, a cognac cafe and some of the boys made acquaintances with the local madamoiselles. This was the closest contact we'd had with the French and we were well pleased. All in all it was an unusual way to spend a Christmas Eve.
25 December 1944
First and Second Squads were assigned to vital bridges in downtown Charleyville. Machine guns were set up in second floor of bombed out building. Patrols were maintained around bridges. Enemy recon planes flew over area at 2100. No action. Thanks to our enterprising Lt. Friedl, turkeys were obtained from a Negro Qm. in exchange for some lard and a good line of "bull". Beaucoup champagne and calvados was consumed by the platoon that day.
Rein: "Where are you going today, Garvey?"
Garvey: "What'd you say?"
Rein: "Where are you going today?"
Garvey: "What's the matter with you fellow, going crazy? That's the second time you said that."
26 December 1944
Platoon rejoined the company and moved to Fumay, France. Bivouacked in dense woods for a maintenance break and set up outposts for local security against paratroopers which were said to be in the area. It was here that we had our first taste of snow and cold weather. Little did we realize that we were to see much more of it.
29 December 1944
The company moved out and after a 95-mile road march, we closed in on the Neaufchateau-Bastogne area. It was here that the Eleventh Armored Division stopped von Rundstedt's drive to the south and saved the vital Neaufchateau-Bastogne highway. That night we were strafed by planes trying to knock out the supply columns. They were completely unsuccessful and all planes participating were brought down.
30 December 1944
This was the day that the division was to prove itself. We jumped off at 0730, with the cavalry making contact with the enemy at 0822 south of Remagne. Enemy opposition confronting the division consisted of the crack and veteran 3rd and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions and the Remer Brigade. They were part of the German power play to cut the lifeline. We were untried in combat, but the division advanced 6 miles in 5 days, over rough, frost-bitten and heavily contested terrain.
31 December 1944
Moved to area near Lavasselle.
1 January 1945
Rejoined company minus the First Platoon and moved 5 miles northeast of Point Rosiere. We moved out of the area at 1630, just as enemy artillery was adjusting on our vehicles. Bivouacked on hill near Marhet. The platoon set up road blocks between Lavasselle and the enemy to the north. It was while in this area that the company suffered its first casualty. It was terribly cold and the snow was practically knee deep. The war was going on in all its fury and enemy resistance was almost fanatical. We received sporadic artillery fire.
5 January 1945
Left Lavesselle, moved to vicinity of Sibret and bivouacked on the side of a hill near Chenagne, Belgium. We were alerted for any counterattack against the 17th A. B. D. who later relieved us in that sector. The second squad filled in shell craters in road. We received little artillery fire here but the weather was something terrible. Bridge work was also done here.
8 January 1945
Moved into Sibret and were fortunate enough to find buildings in which to live. More snow here but we didn't seem to mind it much being that we were in houses. We really enjoyed our maintenance break here which lasted four days.
Chavez: "The Belgian girls give coffee to everyone but "Chico'"; "Here's some nice milk for Chicolo, 'Baby'".
12 January 1945
Company moved out to north through Bastogne at 1630. Bivouacked near Savy, Belgium in woods.
13 January 1945
Received a few rounds of enemy artillery all through the night and more at 0800. The Platoon suffered 3 casualties, Bill and Henry Warcken, the twins, and C. R. Brown. Moved up to vicinity of Longchamps. Cleared roads of mines and roadblocks, which were booby trapped, from Longchamps to Bertogne. With the aid of the bulldozer we removed the roadblocks. The platoon removed 9 Teller mines. On road to Bertogne we ran into more mines all of which were hastily removed in order that the on-coming troops could advance.
15 January 1945
Cleared and swept road from Bertogne to Compogne and located several Holtz (Wooden), mines. Part of the platoon acted as infantry that day and you have no idea the number of "Krauts" that were killed (strictly unconfirmed, of course). This was the time our platoon lead the March.
16 January 1945
Lt. Friedl, Sgt. Rein and Cpl. Vivian went out on night patrol to inspect bridges in vicinity. Reported one bridge that had been destroyed by the enemy. Platoon cleared road between Malompre and Houffalize. Heavy enemy artillery fire came in about 1700. DeHann was seriously injured.
17 January 1945
At 0800 a heavy barrage of enemy rockets (screaming meemies) and artillery. We were living in German dugouts, Platoon moved back to Savy then, moved to Lonchamps and rejoined the Company.
19 January 1945
What a break! We're living in houses. We can well use it. Maintenance of weapons and personal.
Zoradi: "Say Tuggy, did you really kiss that English babe goodbye back in Melksham?"
Tuggy: "That isn't fair"
Salsman: "Say, Tuggy, what do you think of the woman situation over here?"
Tuggy: "Well, I don't know..."
Ruhl: "Say, Tuggy, why don't you keep still for awhile!!!!"
20 January 1945
Moved to vicinity of Moville, Belgium, dug in in deep snow. Lt. Friedl and Reese made night recon of roads in deep snow.
21 January 1945
Cleared roads from Born to Buret and on to Taviginy, Belgium which was end of Corps zone. Platoon found 83 American mines planted by retreating Germans. S/Sgt. Sellers, Sgt. Liberman and Cpl. Lewis made contact with the 6th Armd. For a change, no resistance.
22 January 1945
1st Sqd. went out to clear mines. 3rd Sqd. blew mines near Buret and what a noise followed.
23 January 1945
Today some of the boys had a chance to go back 30 miles for hot showers. We almost froze to death. We did clean up a little.
24 January 1945
Nothing exciting today. Hughes, Reese and Vivian went out and blew a few mines.
25 January 1945
3rd Sqd. went out to relieve C. Co. guarding a treadway bridge at Ardenniere.
26 January 1945
At long last the Co. was issued real winter clothing: shoe packs, heavy socks, ski mittens and fillers, scarves, and overcoats. As is generally the case in the army these came too late; the big thaw had set in several days previously, although the shoe packs later came in handy in the mud. Today the 3rd Sqd. cleared a road of 13 mines and 3 booby traps.
27 January 1945 to 30 January 1945
During this time the platoon continued to enjoy a maintenance break. Meanwhile we did numerous odd jobs-clearing more mines, guarding bridges, and helping the Ôdozer' open two miles of snow covered road two miles northeast of Buret. The platoon took part in infantry-tank assault problems, building practice pill-boxes and later joining in to supply an Engineer demolition team. Getting ready for the Siegfried Line.
31 January 1945
2nd Sqd. relieved 3rd on the treadway bridge guard. Cpl. Lewis was wounded when a meddling infantryman accidently fired a German field piece; the shell struck a wall just above his head and he had to be evacuated.
Faulkner: "Black-eyed peas, no B-V-D's, and that's what I like about the south!"
1 February to 5 February 1945
Our maintenance period at Tavigny Halt continued. Spent one morning test-firing bazookas and explosives. Had several classes on demolitions, saw a movie about what to do in Germany, and continued to clear and destroy mines. One day we were saddled with the unsavory task of burying some twenty-odd dead horses the Germans had slaughtered; they were thawing out and beginning to stink something awful. On the 4th the 3rd Squad laid a treadway bridge near the town of Tavigny. Next day Cpl. Fontaine and two others went up toward St. Vith to look for billets. Looks as though we may move soon.
6 February 1945
Today we moved to Braunlauf, Belgium. The 3rd Sqd. stayed back to lay a treadway bridge.
7 February 1945
The 3rd platoon was given a school house to billet in and we were extremely fortunate in that the kitchen set up in the same building. "It's always a good thing to be near the kitchen", says Hughes. The 1st and 2nd squads cleared roads and disposed of rockets, mines, grenades and booby traps.
8 February 1945 to 20 February 1945
Our activity during this period consisted principally in combating mud and rain. All platoon trucks were emptied and the platoon started maintaining roads in general vicinity. "Man on Man if we can only get into Germany and those superhighways". "Go ahead and bitch all you care I'll take this to the Bulge any day". "This surely reminds me of Louisiana Maneuvers". We all had our say but we continued to go out every day placing corduroy, wading mud and water and blasting away rock trying to keep the much needed roads open. We did our job and it was a job well done.
Dewitt: "Now, back in Kansas "
Garvey: "Say, you had a good chance to stay out of this".
21 February 1945
The 3rd Platoon now attached to C. Co. moved near Lutz-Kempten, Germany. We helped maintain roads from Bock to Berg-Regland. The platoon got its first look at the much talked about Siegfried Line. The men were impressed with the way in which this line was fortified. However, many were even more astounded with the number of knocked out enemy vehicles along the road inside the German border. Our air forces had done a good job.
24 February 1945
We rejoined the company at Eraunlauf, and prepared to move out.
25 February 1945
Today we moved out to Manderfield, Belgium and passed through the city of St. Vith. What a sight I dare say that you could not have found billets for a squad. It was one solid mass of ruins.
26 February 1945
Again the platoon had some road work to do. The ever-present mud and rain were on hand.
28 February 1945
The 3rd squad went out on patrol to check roads in enemy held territory for mines and abatis. No mines were found but a road bridge had been knocked out The first squad went out on a similar mission the following night. Some enemy fire was encountered.
Cooper: "Say, 'Doradi' put on your patiges. We're goin' up to that 'Secret Line'."
4 March 1945
The platoon moved out today at 1600 and bivouacked near Waschied, Belgium in woods.
5 March 1945
Platoon worked on by-pass near Getheim, Germany. The 3rd squad stayed on treadway bridge as guide for CCA. The company moved to area near Budasheim, Germany. The 3rd squad rejoined company at 1700. At about 1800 the enemy began shelling the area. It lasted for 20 minutes. "If only someone would do something!" If there was only something that we could do but lie here with our face in the ground". Then all hell broke loose. Our artillery began retaliating. We suffered no casualties. The company moved out of shelled area to town of Wallersheim.
6 March 1945
The platoon worked on road from Schwerzhiem to Duppach near Prum, Germany. We rejoined company in Wallersheim. Our Platoon truck rejoined us from Mandersfield.
7 March 1945
We're off on a 'rat-race'. Few men knew what that meant at the time but it wasn't very long until we all had a fair idea. A Co. working with CCA jumped off at Lessingen and crossed the Kyll River at about 1800. About two miles from Kelberg, Germany the column was stopped. Enemy opened up with antitank tire on our right. Four vehicles immediately preceding the 3rd squad truck and two in the back where knocked out. Among the vehicles knocked out were two light tanks, the air compressor, the Platoon truck and the maintenance truck. The command track was also hit. The 3rd Squad immediately deployed and set up a defense with men and weapons of the squad. The remainder of platoon had pulled off the road in the rear and set up a defense of its own. The 3rd squad pulled into Kelberg at about 1230. The rest of the platoon joined the company at 0330 AM.
Rigelon and Parker: Halt! Halt! Halt! The horse didn't seem to understand just what they wanted. It was a little dark......
8 March 1945
Kelberg was one "hot-spot". Few it any men got any rest. There was a dead Kraut about twenty feet from our door steps the next morning. We moved out at 1230 with CCA. The 2nd and 3rd squads stayed in Mayen assigned to guarding bridge and guiding traffic. Our days of "Looting" have begun! Ashtu Iyer', ashtu Schnapps. Boy, that's a nice P-38 you've got. It was in Mayen that we made our first big haul. Beaucoup wine was found and it was here that we first did any organized "looting". You know if you want to be successful you've got to organize yourselves when going out on one of these 'looting parties'. The squads took in 24 German prisoners here The platoon moved into Plaidt, Germany and nice houses.
10 March 1945
Most of the boys took baths today, their first in quite some time. Living quarters were comfortable lights, water and lots of wine.
11 March 1945
The company moved out to clear towns of Kietz and Kruft. Houses were searched and many knives, guns, and pistols were found. Several Krauts were also rounded up.
Allison: "Light me a fire and bring me some grease and bacon I'm a cooking thing".
12 March 1945
The platoon has no complaints as far as houses are concerned. We went out to work on treadway ferry set. Every one in high spirits again tonight. This is the way wars should be fought.
13 March 1945
The 3rd squad went out to clear roadblock in Andernach. Wine still flowing freely.
Paul Myers: "All you boys getting P-38's; think I'll take me home an 88s".
14 March 1945
The 1st end 2nd squads went out today to clear roadblock and repair roads, on the route to Andernach. This is near Lwachen See, which has a Monastary Built in 1095 and is still in use.
15 March 1945
The company today moved from Kruft to Ethuigen, Germany. Headquarters here were not as good. Two planes were shot down one American and one British.
16 March 1945
The company moved out at 1800 and made a black-out march to Dreseh, Germany. We stayed out in field for night.
17 March 1945
We jumped off at 1600. The Big Push was again on. The drive that day netted 30 miles to the town of Kapped. The platoon cleared roadblock under small arms fire.
18 March 1945
Never try eating German bread with false teeth. It just doesn't work. Loot had been pretty good the last few days. The drive that day was good for 17 miles.
We were on the road until 0500 this morning and ended up in town of Suiwers, Germany. Received heavy shelling from the Krauts. Capt. Blackburn today stepped on a German mine. One foot was completely blown off and the other leg was broken. The platoon was under intermittent artillery fire all through the day. The 3 rd platoon put a ford across a river and layed 36 feet of treadway. Also cleared roadblock.
19 March 1945
The drive got under way again today and artillery fire today was even heavier than yesterday. Those "Screaming Meemies" again. The platoon built 125 feet of corduroy and layed 84 feet of treadway. Left at 2200 and drove 15 miles to Meisenheim. Arrived at 0300. We received some shelling on the way.
Skipper: "Boys, I've a good idea. Let's just pour some gasoline on that fire". Some people are bottom heavy, Skipper usually lands on his head jumping out of the truck when shells are coming in.....
20 March 1945
We left Meisenheim at about 0900 and cleared road of knocked out enemy vehicles and dead horses on in to Monsheim, which is about 7 miles from Worms on the Rhine. The drive was good for 35 miles that day. This was really a tough four-day grind.
21 March 1945
Living in buildings in Monsheim with beaucoup of everything. Wine, pistols, cameras, knives, swastikas, guns Ñ Loot!! Loot!! It was here that Rigelon and Mirabal captured a bus toad of Krauts trying to make a get-away. Several German planes came over but were kept at a distance. Ah! What a relief. Capt. Ardery replaced Major Mitchell as our Company Co. Every one thinks a lot of him. Our opinion is the same now as it was then "He's a damn good guy and a good company commander".
Pendygraft, was a bridge carpenter before we hit the Rhine River. After that you could get any grade of wine you wanted from his carpenters chest
25 March 1945
Today at 1100 we moved 10 miles to Einsheim. We have a pretty good deal here. A club-mobile came in. Hot coffee, doughnuts and music. The boys enjoyed it all. What a sight last night. Heinne planes were trying to knock out the 3rd Army Bridge at Oppenheim and our anti-air threw up everything they had.
28 March 1945
Left Einsheim at 1200, crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim then went to the vicinity of Russelsheim.
29 March 1945
At 1200 we went through Darmstad1 which was completely leveled, then went to vicinity of Hanau, Germany. We crossed the Main River and made slow progress due to heavy enemy resistance. We were working with the 26th Infantry.
The boys ran into some good wine and champagne. We were billeted in a house near Lebous.
30 March 1945
Enemy resistance here was pretty heavy. The 3rd squad was sent back to guard bridge.
31 March 1945
The platoon, less the 3rd squad, left Gelen at 0800 on drive into Germany. The drive today took us 34 miles inland to the town of Wallruf. The 3rd squad was unable to catch up with the company due to the number of vehicles on the road and the speed with which the Division was moving. They rejoined the company four days later at Altandamback.
Vivian: "Well I don't know about you fellows but I'm going to get out. Who's getting off?"
There's nothing wrong with Klaus' appetite today!!!
1 April 1945
The drive today was good for 64 miles. Very little opposition. We're a bit disappointed today. Ellis has but two pistol strapped on, a carbine and an M-1 on his knee and a couple of liberated rifles in arms reach.
2 April 1945
Today the platoon left Reichenhausen at 0900. We drove 24 miles. We stopped before entering the town and then we were ordered to run thru the artillery fire. The platoon was called in to act as infantry but this was later called off. Everyone was on edge. Stayed at Untermassfioid tonight.
3 April 1945
We left Untermassfield at 0830 this day and drove 15 miles to Altandamback. The platoon was assigned the task of taking and clearing the town, supported by a tank and 4 T.D.'s. No enemy was encountered on this mission. The rest of CCA went on into Shul.
Skipper: "Some of you boys are the most careless things I've ever seen. You don't use your heads. Now, what do you suppose happened? He was heating a can of C ration one day and didn't open it a little first. The can blew up and hit him in the eye. He'll never live that one down! He was evacuated for several weeks.
5 April 1945
We were alerted to go to Shul but never moved out until 1500 that night. Moved into buildings and what a good looting town. There were pistol factories in town and beaucoup pistols were to be had.
6 April 1945
Today we were sent out to the town of Golderlautern as protection for the F. A. (58th). We set up machine guns on high ground around town After that was taken care of, Lt. Friedl immediately set up a Burgermeister. A Burgermeister, for your information, is a civilian appointed to collect all pistols, cameras, guns, knives and etc. A lazy man's way of looting.
7 April 1945
Today at 0430 we left Suhl to go out and clear a road block near the town of Schleusingen. On the road to our mission we passed elements of the 41st Cav. who informed us that elements of their unit were already in that town. We proceeded, and at 0700 found ourselves right in the middle of a 'hornets nest'. Ambushed! The platoon dismounted and began returning the fire. The Krauts were throwing everything they had at us. The deadly Burp Gun, bazookas, rifle fire and the like. In face of overwhelming odds the platoon leader was left with no alternative but to withdraw. All this time Zoradi and Parkhurst exposed to enemy fire, were giving the Krauts a taste of their own medicine by pouring hot lead from our 50 Cal. mounted on the trucks, into their positions. The trucks were turned around and at about that time, the Germans seeing that they had us hopelessly outnumbered, began an attack from the front with fixed bayonets receiving fire support from other of their units on the left and right of our position. Most of the men loaded up but many were unable to make it and had to take off on foot with the Germans beginning to close in from all sides. The peep was waiting about 500 yards back and all men then present loaded up with the exception of Vivian, Annarumma, Nagle, Lt. Friedl, Fontaine and Dinsmore. There wasn't room in the peep for all. Heiser, Sellers, Allison and Reese, the driver, were hit on the way out. All the remaining six, except Dinsmore, made it back on foot the same day by taking to the woods. The Krauts were closing in on Dinsmore but he managed to dodge them by hiding in a haystack for 30 hours. He was freed the next day when our troops came in. It was estimated that there were approximately 200 German troops in area. The dead were Zoradi, Myers and Mirabal. Wounded were Heiser, Allison, and Reese. Those missing were Celani, Leone, Test, Tuggy and Jovich. We drove 10 miles under enemy artillery and mortar fire and billeted for the night in Hild Burghousen. Most of the platoon was jittery and turned in immediately for some rest. It was a tough day.
8 April 1945
Lt. Friedl, Quant and Rein went back to the area where we were ambushed. The platoon went out to clear sections of town. The boys found several nice souvenirs.
Skipper, after the can of cheese hit him in the eye, "I'm feeling mighty poorly boys".
10 April 1945
Today we pulled out at 0715 and pushed forward about 25 miles. The platoon set up out-posts as protection for the 276 F A. Bn. First Squad built a by pass.
11 April 1945
Moved out of Oberlaurten and went up 8 miles to Einberg.
12 April 1945
We're under way again today at 0715 and pushed forward twenty miles against little opposition to the town of Kronach. We had eggs by the crate here and the way some of the boys eat those things it's a good thing we had crates of them.
13 April 1945
Left Kronach, Germany at 0900 today and were good for another 20 miles. Oh, My Back what a town for loot. Pistols, cameras and knives galore. Salsman, Fontaine and Browe located a meat packing plant in town. And who said the Germans had no meat? Salsman wasn't content to leave until he had the peep practically loaded. It was the first fresh meat we had had in months. We moved out of Unterstienach into the local "Gasthouse" and lived the life of ÔRiley' for a few days. We set up guard in this town with the 22 Tank Bn.
This spearheading is beginning to show on the boys. It isn't the resistance that we meet up with that's so tough. It's that business of just riding along in two and one-halt ton trucks with only "The Road and Shoulders Cleared of Krauts". Moving deep into enemy held territory by-passing large numbers of the enemy only to have them take pot shots at you. Many times it amounted to much more than pot-shots. However, spearheading played a big part in winning this war. Some think it tougher than the Bulge, others easier and others think it's all one big mess.
14 April 1945
Our stay at Unterstienach was a pleasant one. There were lots of eggs, fresh meat and German beer which wasn't too good, but better than none at all. La Buff, on the day of the ambush, when the Krauts were coming at us turned over on his back in a ditch and downed a full bottle of Schnapps! Said La Buff, that's one thing those so and so's won't get... "Slim" Crossett (The Kid) and "Rip Van Winkle" Cullen joined the piatoon.
18 April 1945
Moved ten miles to Neudrossenfeld. Very little opposition.
19 April 1945
Moved out on drive and advanced about 20 miles to town of Grafenwehr.
Said one Negro Artilleryman in the St. Vith area, after we had turned the Germans, every time a round was fired "Now, Count your men Cpl. Hitler, Count your men".
20 April 1945
The boys rounded up a few chickens each day that we were in the town of Grafenwohr, and with the drinks that we had on hand we had quite a spread the whole time we remained there.
21 April 1945
The 3rd squad went out to clear 22 buildings of booby traps in a large ammo dump.
Hughes: "Hey, Axel, do you think that I could be a sharpie, too?"
22 April 1945
Left Grafenwohr and headed southeast through Weiden. We treed many British and Russian P. W's. They really took over the town. Many were almost starved and as soon as we entered they started raiding the town's food stores. A sight many of us will always remember. We moved to Ptrelud where 2nd and 3rd squads worked on by-pass and the 1st went on to Nabbing to remove 1000 lbs. of demolition from a bridge. Had 2 air raids in town. While in Weiden the second squad procured two cases of good liquor.
23 April 1945
We moved out of Ptreid at 0700 and made another advance ot 35 miles to the city of Cham. We freed our first G. I. P. W's in Cham and also found Tuggy, Jovich, and Leone. What a sight it was to see these Americans, dirty, tired, hungry and overcome with joy at seeing us. Most of the boys felt as though there was an apple caught in their throat, when they saw some of their own boys as P. W's and the way the 6ermans had treated them.
24 April 1945
Moved out of Cham at 1100, moved on to the town of Wiechtach and billeted for the night, an advance of 15 miles.
8rand: "Lets go Sellers, git them men out on time".
Zeke: "Rave on Brand, I'm gonna be a civilian when you're still falling 'em out".
25 April 1945
Scheduled to leave at 0600 but again there was a delay and it was 1300 before the drive got under way. CCA followed CCB to the town ot Regan and then drove on to the town of Grafenau. Enemy air activities were increasing with each day. The drive for the day was good for 40 miles.
26 April 1945
Moved out ot Grafenau at 0730 and headed for Freyung. The platoon put in a wooden approach to a creek ford and later a tread-way was put in. Bn. commander Lt. Colonel Inge was wounded when enemy planes came over, strafing. The site that the platoon was working on was also strafed. The platoon moved on into the town of Grainet about 9 miles from the Austrian border. The whole platoon was billeted in an old house. No one griped too much, just as long as we had a roof to sleep under.
27 April 1945
Having a break in Grainet. You know why we're here? Orders just came through that we're supposed to hold here until the Russians come in. Well, the Russians didn't meet us so we had a little celebration all of our own. There was a little to drink and Salsman saw to it that we all had plenty to eat. We stayed here two days. The boys cleaned up, some went to church and the others just sat around and ate eggs. I'm told that one individual broke the two dozen record that had been set in the platoon. A few Heinie planes came over but as usual kept out of range.
1 May 1945
Left Grainet at 0800 and were on our way to Austria. We drove 15 miles to the town of Wegscheid. The Krauts had decided to make this town a strong point and really put up a tight. The artillery pulled off to the side of the road and began plastering the town. We lost six tanks and suffered a few casualties in the company. The platoon set up out-posts on outskirts of town that night. What a night. It snowed and rained the better part of the night. The men of the platoon were about convinced that the existing rumors were strictly rumors, that is concerning the end of the war. After what happened in this town I venture to say that they'll never believe that the war has ended.
2 May 1945
Moved out of Wegscheid at 0800 and crossed the Austrian border a few miles out. What weather we're having for May. We advanced 20 miles to the town of Parkstein Austria. The welcome we received in Austria was the same as it was in Germany. We have no more love for the Austrians than we have for the Germans.
3 May 1945
We got a late start this morning but as usual were up early. Moved about 20 miles to Newfelden. The Germans had done a good job of blowing the bridges and CCA was held up while the platoon worked on bypass across the Muhl River. We worked until late that night.
4 May 1945
We're on our way again this morning and after a twenty mile advance were held up again by blown bridges. We put up for the night in a town near Rottenegg. Boy, the rumors that are floating around. It's just a matter of hours now; or the German High Command has issued the cease fire order; or it's all over in the north. No, it's of no use. We refuse to believe anything until we hear it officially.
5 May 1945
German planes were over early this morning. We moved out cross country to town of Rottenegg. Who said the war was over? The platoon moved out in the field with other units of the command. "Why dig in?" "That's our artillery coming in". "Why the war's over". This went on for about five minutes, then all arguing ceased. It wasn't our artillery and the war wasn't over. Enemy artillery kept coming all that afternoon and part of the night. The platoon suffered one casualty.
6 May 1945
We're off again this morning cross-country. Had a nice view of the Danube and the city of Linz. We were all anxious to get into Linz. Just think of the looting in a city of that size. It's been quite some time since we were in a city of any size. Our rations were running low. As it happened elements of our division helped take the city but we moved into the town of Reichenau. The end of the war is really now in sight. Seems as tough we're just sitting around waiting for the end.
7 May 1945
Today in the town of Reichenau, Austria, the 3rd Platoon of the looting-shooting Thunderbolt division heard the news that the world had long awaited. "The cessation of hostilities in Europe". This news provoked little excitement in the platoon. It was such a long time in coming and we had also been expecting it for some time. It came as no sudden surprise. With the war in Europe over, now what? For many of us it only means the beginning of another war.
8 May 1945
Our company moved to Linz, Austria today. Ah! What a relief it is to ride along in an open 6 by 6 and be able to sit back, relax and say "To Hell with the woods on each side of the road and to whatever's going on at the front of the column", and ride along enjoying the scenery and batting the breeze.
9 May 1945
"Lets go fellows. One time like you mean it" Sellers is at it again. We're living in Linz in comfortable apartment houses and once more, garrison life. The activities of the 3rd platoon as set forth in this booklet are far from complete on were written to the best of our knowledge. In combat many things including acts of heroism occur without anyone but the one directly concerned ever knowing about it. This booklet consists of extracts of an official platoon diary and in certain instances presents the writers own personal views. This compilation is the result of the actual combat experiences of this unit and individuals, evolved during more than five months of combat. The Third Platoon did their job as part of our army that saw victory in Europe. It was a job well done and they feel justly proud of it.
The 3rd Sqd of the 3rd platoon,
Is made up of a bunch of goons.
We're fighting and bitching most of the time;
But we're damn good buddies, up on the line.
Our Sqd. Leader's name is, "Smiling Jack",
Who tries to keep us on the right track.
Our ass't squad leaders name is, Fontaine,
Who moves around like a wild hurricane.
Bill Hanson is next in line
He's always nursing a bottle of wine.
Fortier came to us a short time ago
How he will like us, I'm sure I don't know.
Then we have "Skipper", A likable guy.
A hot can of cheese hit him in the eye.
Ellis or Beaucoup as he is called,
Doesn't give a damn for anything at all.
Klaus and Parker handle the hammer and saw.
Klaus, we call "Leroy" and Parker is "Paw".
Vivian too is a carpenter by trade.
All three of these boys are technicians 5th grade.
Ed Cenkner is our camera man.
He develops our film as fast as he can.
Rigelon is a good man too,
He helps make up our rugged crew.
Edwards is our truck driver.
And I, I'm his assistant.
We've taken that 6 by 6,
For one damn long, long distance.
There you have us right down the line,
We live on eggs and bottles of wine.
We're part of the 56th Engineers,
The lootinest bunch in a good many years.
When the war is over and our job is done,
Then we'll get together and have some real fun.
We'll have a celebration back there in the states,
Where there ain't no "SCREEMING MEMIES AND NO 88's".
For this bit of poetry, our thanks to "Bob Ehlert".
Back to "Our History"