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Short Stories Of WWII 
by Leonard R. Kyle 0-393494
 August 2000

490th Armored Field Artillery
11th Armored Division, Third Army
European Theatre of Operations 



During about half of my combat time my assignment was to perform the duties of the Battalion Executive Officer. This was a major's job as the second ranking officer for a group of about 500 men and 100 assorted vehicles' 18 self-propelled 105mm howitzers, half tracks, jeeps and 6x6, 2 -ton trucks. Some pulled one ton trailers. The Executive Officer led the column and took them to their assigned place for combat. Normally this was an easy job since in daylight you followed the leading unit, usually an infantry or tank unit and the road would be fairly well marked by signs or personnel assigned to point out the way. 

We crossed the Rhine River on a pontoon bridge near Oppenheim in the late afternoon and spread out on the flat ground where another large river joined the Rhine. We were waiting for the Engineers to bridge this river so we could cross, headed for Berlin. I was in my bedroll trying to get to sleep near my jeep about 11:00 PM when I heard the liaison officer arrive at our temporary headquarters. In one sentence I knew we were leaving soon with a new assignment. The new bridge had not been finished as scheduled and we had been assigned to a different Corps and headed in a different direction for Austria instead of Berlin. We were to follow a tank battalion leaving shortly and go 60 miles by daylight and attack a new objective. 

The last tank went by about midnight and I moved our unit into column. The last tanks were going about twenty-five miles an hour trying to keep up with those ahead. I was afraid we might lose some vehicles at that speed so set the pace between fifteen and twenty miles per hour. This area had been recently liberated and some markers had been put out, but it was sometimes a problem knowing where to go. In the edge of a town on a brick road I faced a problem---there was a fork and no guide or marker. I solved the problem by getting down on my hands and knees with a hooded flashlight to determine which way the tank tracks had scratched the bricks. This proved to be the correct route which was fortunate. It is not easy to turn such a column around in the dark and some areas were mined. 

We made the sixty mile trip in six hours blackout, stopped on the road ate breakfast and gassed up. On schedule we attacked a new objective and surprised the Germans who did not know a new armored division was in the area. We only lost two trailers. They had been run into from behind in the dark. The ability to do this was the mark of a well, trained and experienced unit.



We were near the end of the "Battle Of The Ardennes" and approaching the German Siegfried Line. Our headquarters had occupied a substantial farmhouse with barn and a courtyard. The sun was shining and the ground was thawing. The master sergeant in charge of our fire direction center [I was S-3 at the time] decided each man should clean out his seat of our armored half-track. There was an assigned seat with a small area where personal effects could be stored including in the seat cushion. The enlisted men had finished theirs and things were quiet just after lunch. So I decided it was time for me to get busy. I went outside without a helmet, weapon or jacket. Officers in combat in our unit at that time did not display rank and we dressed the same as any G.I. I had my head down in the right front seat area when I heard a jeep arriving. I looked and there was General Patton, Commander of the Third U.S. Army with only his driver. 

I saluted smartly and said "may I help you sir", expecting to get chewed out for not having a helmet or weapon. To my surprise he answered " where the hell am I"? I asked if he had a map and calmly pointed out a crossroads on it. I told him if he went out the front gate, turned right and went two hundred yards that was where he would be. He thanked me and quickly left. Knowing where we were and reading a map was my job since at that time I was running the fire direction center that gave data for firing our artillery pieces to each battery. This required locating them as accurately as possible on the map and then adjusting the fire on the target.



We were trying to cross the border of Germany into Austria. The front was a river, which was the border with a small town. Our forward observer called for a volley of white phosphorus for shock effect and perhaps some burning. The lead battery was only about 1,600 yards from the target. I quickly gave the data to fire and away it went. Unfortunately it never arrived. The down slope of the trajectory went through a forest of tall evergreen trees. So the shells never reached the intended target. Fortunately I was not made famous by that volley. Several war correspondents had just left the area under the trees. They might not have liked air bursts over their heads and some might have been killed. Guess who would have been to blame? We changed to high angle fire to reach the target.



I had been well trained to adjust artillery fire both while in training at Ft. Sill and by Colonel Bilbo after I joined the 490th Armored Field Artillery in Camp Cooke, California.

Since I had been promoted to a staff job just before we left England for combat, I only had two opportunities to adjust fire while in combat. One time I remember very well. We were in a holding position facing the fortified Siegfried Line and things were very quiet. Our commanding officer, Major Davit, said "Kyle go up and see if you can hit this German bunker" as he showed it to me on a marked map. We had two L-5 Piper Cub planes in our unit specifically for spotting targets from the air. They flew at a slow rate of speed and were of light construction with fabric wings. The pilot took me up where we could see the target and began flying in a regular race track oval pattern over the same terrain while I adjusted fire using some old odd lot ammo which we wanted to dispose of. Each time we flew over a certain area a heavy German machine gun cut lose and I could see the tracer bullets going past our wing. On the third pass I finally got concerned and asked the pilot if we could fly a different route. He replied "does this bother you." I said it did so he changed course. I don*t think I ever really hit the target, which was reinforced concrete.



My artillery battery was assigned to man the port side antiaircraft guns on the Samaria, an English merchantman, for the trip to England. This was a really good assignment. The men were billeted in special berths on the top deck above the officers so they would have easy access to the gun turrets. Each turret had a twin mount of twenty millimeter, rapid fire guns. There were three turrets behind, above and down in front of the bridge. There were another three in the same configuration to the rear. All turrets were entered through a trap door from a ladder below. The assignment gave the men better air than in the hold below and most importantly it gave them something to do. Each turret was manned twenty four hours a day by three men for a shift of about two hours. There was a gunner, an ammunition handler and a man assigned to watch a specific segment of the sky. 

We were the first unit to board and get settled in. Also the unit received instructional training on the antiaircraft guns and procedures to be used. This was not difficult since most of the unit had qualified on 50 caliber machine guns. Training was handled by the Gunnery Officer for the ship. 

The day after we left the Port of New York our large convoy was out in the Gulf Stream current. This was about the middle of September and the weather was balmy and mild. 

Naturally any right minded G.I. thought it was his opportunity to take off his shirt and enjoy the sun and get a tan. Since the turrets were entered from a ladder below, no one

would be the wiser. About noon the other Captain for the battery manning the starboard guns and I got summoned to the bridge. The English Captain wanted to see us. He could look down from the bridge into the one gun turret in front of the bridge. Soldiers stripped to the waist were not in proper uniform. He was furious and gave us a good dressing down. All we could say was "YES SIR" we will take care of the problem. 

We each called in our First Sergeant and explained the problem. Each said they would see that a special group with proper instructions would man the turrets in front of the bridge. Meanwhile the good life in the sun went on as usual in the other turrets since no one could see into them or pay them a surprise visit.



About two weeks after the war was over the 490th Armored Artillery Battalion was ordered to move south in the Austrian Alps to Alt Aussee. It was a beautiful spot on a large lake with a glacier some distance to the Southwest. In the process we took over from and Infantry Regiment that had been there. We kept our heavy vehicles and artillery pieces off of the grass of open fields so all of the natives could hurry and harvest their hay crop for winter cattle feed. Our unit was to provide the early military government for the area and we were forbidden to "fraternize" with the natives. 

There was not much to do but relax and take a hike of about three miles around the lake. We set up and office in City Hall to administer affairs with some enlisted men and our Battalion Adjutant in charge. There are only two incidences, involving women, of enough interest to report. About the second night we were there the telephone in our officers quarters rang with a Sergeant asking for instruction. There was a curfew in effect at sundown for civilians and our patrol had picked up a local Countess and put her in jail {a cold basement under headquarters]. The word got to the mayor who came to protest and get her out. Apparently the previous unit had permitted her exemption. Rusk took the call since the Colonel was gone. He turned to me and explained the situation adding "do we recognize royalty?" I replied no so he turned back to the telephone and told the Sergeant "keep her until morning." That established our reputation as hard-nosed so they regarded us as the equivalent of their German SS, but we never had much of a problem with anyone. The second situation was more amusing. A good looking thirty year old woman came into headquarters one morning and asked in English to speak to the Colonel. The Lieutenant asked what she wanted. Otherwise her request would not be granted. After some sparring he realized she would not talk in front of entire office full of soldiers. So he took her into a private room reserved for interrogation and small group meetings. It turned out that she just wanted to be the Colonel*s Frau. She had been living with the Commanding Officer of the previous unit and did not want to be demoted. Our Colonel did not engage in such activities [actually forbidden by orders] so her request was denied. 

Our headquarters officers were quartered in to large homes. I was in a very large, expensive house of three stories plus a full basement which had porches and balconies with a view of the lake. This house was owned by a very wealthy individual. He was not there, but his servants lived in the basement. Most of the time we ate in the Battalion mess, but on Sunday nights we would furnish the food, except for the locally caught fish, and we would eat with them in the basement around big round tables with a lazy Susan server. When Martha and I visited Bad Aussee about 1990, we could not find the house. Eventually we found an older person who told us it had been torn down. The City Government had purchased it to build a new fire station and provide a large parking lot for the numerous tour busses for summer tourists.

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