Company A 101 Engineer (C) Battalion, Yankee Division
The story of a group of men in uniform. .. who trained together, worked together, and fought together, who shared equally their better and worse times
11 Feb 43 - 11 Jul 45
COMPANY "A" 101st ENGINEER C BATTALION
MAPS: Tec 5 EMANUEL VADALA
SKETCHES: PIc WILLIAM B. McGEE
1st PLATOON: Pfc IRVING GLASSERMAN, Tec 5 DANIEL R. WILKIE, Tec 5 EMANUEL L. VADALA
2nd PLATOON: Pfc THOMAS P. DOWD, Pfc JOHN K. CLIFFORD
3rd PLATOON: Pfc ROBERT L. FULLER, Pfc WILLIAM K. POWELL, Pfc RAYMOND L. AVIS, Pfc JOHN B. KELLEY. Sr.
Co HEADQUARTERS: Tec 5 ARTHUR M. SIMON, Pfc ALBERT R. BROUDE
PICTURES: ENTIRE COMPANY
REWRITING: Pfc ROBERT L. FULLER, Pfc THOMAS P. DOWD, Pfc ALBERT R. BROUDE, Tec 5 ARTHUR M. SIMON
EDITING: Pfc ALBERT R. BROUDE, Tec 5 ARTHUR M. SIMON
O, some of us are whiskey men and some of us drink gin.
We don't know where we're going but we like it where we've been.
O, some of us drink Spanish Rum and some drink beer and ale,
And every time we see a jug, we set it on its tail.
It's not so much the ornaments that make us what we are, It's the way stand and the way we spit and the way we cut the air,'
O, it's really the men who are underneath the uniform we wear.
We lay down all the rolling roads and cut down all the trees,
And if the orders ever came, we'd forge the raging seas.
Whenever they want to sleep a while, we put them up a town,
And we build the blasted bridges so the infantry won't drown.
We get them over rivers and across the mountain streams.
Do everything but tuck them in and wish them pleasant dreams.
And when the going's really tough and shell burst in their ears,
A whole division's apt to pray, "God, send four Engineers."
It's rumored about the Navy, which has a love for sport,
'that every single sailor has a girl in every port.
But every Combat Engineer, who doesn't need to boast,
Has a wife jn every village that isn't on the coast.
The women faint by dozens when they see us marching by,
We pick them up and dust them off and set them out to dry.
We've got a line the Signal Corps and Cavalry can't beat,
For you can't talk love and Radio, and horses don't smell sweet.
You can trace our fighting history through a hundred thousand year
For when they needed barricades they sent for engineers,
It was a very hairy early soldier of the Corps
who discovered bows and arrows and learned what rocks were for.
We built the horse that got Troy gigged when Homer was a pup,
And we ran ahead at Marathon and tripped the Persians up.
When Ceasar crossed the Rubicon as he was going home,
We put a bridge across the stream and changed the course of Rome.
Napoleon at Waterloo might still have held the field
If he had had ten engineers to keep old Blucher heeled,
Or Wellington, had we been there instead of his array,
Would have taken half an hour to win instead of half a day.
O, some of us are bourbon men and some of us drink wine.
And there's more meat in front of us when we sit down do dine.
O, when the average cannoneer goes down to Hell in tears,
He'll find the Styx and Phlegathon were bridged by engineers.
HARRY E. WHISENHUNT
WILLIAM F. McGUIRE
CHESTER H. McCULLOUGH
BRONZE STARS WITH TWO CLUSTERS:
WALTER F. SCHMITT
LT RAY NIELSEN
BRONZE STARS WITH CLUSTERS:
WILFRED J. ANDERSON THOM. M.
BARTHLOMIECZYK ONORATO J.
GALLESICH GEORGE W. GERY
GEORGE W. SPRENG
ROBERT J. HANSON
JOHN V. LAFFIN
LT JOHN M. LIGHT
JACK T. PLAGGE
ALFRED N. AGRESTI
LT ELMER ANNAS
JOHN E. ANDERSON
RAYMOND L. AVIS
WILLIAM N. BANKS
JOHN A. BERARDO
JOHN J. BETTS
WILLIAM W. BOYER
JAMES E. BURKETT
JOHN P. BUONO
JAMES H. BUFFINGTON
SAM CHRISTO, JR.
FRANK J. CIVITANO
JOSEPH J. CLUTTERBUCK
JOHN K. CLIFFORD
JOHN J. CRAPA
THOMAS P. DOWD
LEO P. DUGAN
EDWARD B. FEENEY
JAMES W. FITZSIMMONS
WILLIAM C. FOURNIER
LORIN W. FYALL
HAROLD E. FINE
WILLIAM J. GALBRAITH
RUSSELL A. GIRARD
HERMAN H. GOLDSTEIN
RUDOLPH G. GRASSO
CHARLES L. GUERINO
FLOYD H. HANNA, JR.
JAMES F. HEALY
CARROL D. HUTSON Sr.
HENRY J. JUST
JOHN B. KELLY, Sr.
JAMES L. KETCHU
ELLSWORTH C. KECKELEY
ROBERT L. KOHLER
ROGER K. LONG
WILLIAM T. LUYSTER
JAMES P. MARNELL
WILLIAM F. McGUIRE
CHESTER H. McCULLOUGH
DONALD A. MICKLAY
EDWARD J. MILLER
ALEX W. MOILANEN
ROBERT B. NAPIER
CECIL W. NORMORE
AUGUST J. NUBER
CHARLES D. OSBORNE
CAPT. EDWARD J. OTERO
JOHN W. PAKASINSKI
HARRY M. PEARCE
ANTHONY S. PESCIOTTA
NICHOLAS J. PICCOLO
HENRY C. RAKOWSKY
CAPT JOSEPH REDHEFFER
FRANK J. RUBINICH
LT CLYDE M. SANDERS
CHRISTIE E. SARLO
JOSEPH J. SCIACCA
ARTHUR F. SCHUELER
DANIEL E. E. SHEETS
ARTHUR M. SIMON
LT CHARLES A. STEINKOENIG
MICHAEL A. TIROTTA
EMANUEL L. VADADA
JOSEPH F. VENINSKY
DANIEL R. WILKIE
Retrospect is a wonderful thing. On this last day of the war in Europe, while we wait for official announcement of the cessation of hostilities throughout this theatre, we try to remember back in order to bring us our own personal remembrance of our company.
Obviously everything cannot be told. Some will feel slighted because of incidents not mentioned, and because others played up too much, but as this is our history, and we have made the contributions(literary and actual) we all are a part of every incident.
Except for the cadre and a few later members of the company, the men who formed this organization were all new men to the Army. While the sudden change from civilian life to Army life was still a shock to most men, we found ourselves in the "sunny south" at North Camp, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, shedding our overcoats and wondering when we were going to don cottons. This was the 21st of February, 1943.
On the 23rd, with the arrival of the rest of the personnel, we were asked countless times about the weather, always giving enthusiastic replies stemming from three beautiful days of sunshine. A week later we "veterans" were eating our words as a terrific cold spell set in and the overcoats and stoves came into their own.
The favorite sports of the first few days were learning to march instead of walk, getting acquainted, and double-timing around the latrine. Some say we were very fortunate in having just two officers but this period of bliss was not long with us, for shortly we were greeted by a bevy of spick and span, spit and polish, fresh from OCS officers. Fact is, we had so many there was both a platoon and assistant platoon commander.
North Camp was a pretty rustic sort of place, obviously thrown together in a hurry, and certainly not built for comfort. True enough, the hutments were the standard type, made for 13 men, but usually sleeping 16, with the pot-bellied stoves at each end in their familiar places. But the rest of our area was really something.
Three long lines of hutments with the mess hall at one end and the latrine at the other, 150 yards away. Between the last hutment and the latrine was a parade ground where we froze every morning at reveille waiting for the familiar report "C" Co, 13 men absent", and where, in order to warm up, DiPietro would give us some of his famous exercises. The less said about our day room and kitchen the better. The kitchen certainly was the “horror chamber” of our stay at North Camp, and both buildings we'd rather forget about. We don't know what the training area was originally planned for, but outside of learning to march and learning triangulation of weapons (before General Eckfeldt) it was good only for sports, and it being too cold for that we hardly used it. The motor pool was a bit of land set aside for a parking lot. There was a beautiful field house, but that was declared “off limits", and the movie house was completed in time for us to go about twice before we moved out. The problem of getting out of camp didn't phase us because we didn’t start getting passes until the end of our stay.
Then our basic training started. Because of the lack of facilities we could do no realistic training. Everything was simulated. However, we learned fast and when the opportunity was given us to actually do the work we were well grounded and got rapidly into the swing of things. All that is a story that will come later. Life at Jackson was crowded with dark spots, but the foremost probably were the rifles that Rusin issued along with our other equipment. We never realized that there were so many parts that could get dirty so quickly, and life became just one gig after another. There are very few of us who will ever forget those memorable occasions when we dug 6x6's, or that time when DePitero smuggled a case of beer over to us while we were digging that mammoth pit to end all pits. Those were the days when we got to know Kasiola and fear his anger. No matter how hard we worked, the kitchen with its wings could never be gotten clean. How we hoped to get Luciow with his easygoing ways on our gig nights. Life, too, had its more humorous side, as that morning we were awakened by DePietro calling everyone to fall out with fire buckets at 3 in the morning. With buckets and extinguishers (M-1) we arrived at the latrine to find it in flames, and Art Simon, in just a raincoat, perched on the rafters, while DePietro in just his short passed filled buckets up to him. Both were thoroughly drenched. With the help of too many hands, the fire was brought under control and put out in a very short time. Investigation showed that three of our worthy members, Gilhooley, Sgt Kelly, and Galasso had paid Bistromowitz, the fire guard, to wash their pants, George had hung the clothing over a pipe in the furnace room and then promptly forgotten about them. Result: No pants, statement of charges, and burnt latrine. And where was the fireguard? 150 yards away in the kitchen cooking an early morning snack. The real fun started Friday night when the rush for fire buckets (which we illegally used to scrub the barracks) began.
While at Dix we had heard fantastic rumors of army PX's. The one at North Camp certainly was fantastic. We never could decide what it had been originally but it certainly was not built to hold the number of men who crowded into it nightly. The usual procedure was for two or three to fight their way to the beer bar, buy a case, and drag it outside to the rest of the thirsting members to drink. The so-called clothing counter seemed to carry nothing but ink and shoe polish. However, if you could manage your way through the entire Engineer Battalion plus the whole 101st Infantry to the cigarette counter you could usually find a varied assortment. Many of the men gave up smoking or relied on supplies from home rather than buck that mob.
The barbershop at one end of the PX was unforgettable. We're really curious to know how many of us actually did step through the floor in front of the second chair. Rumors soon began to fly. We were moving. Where, when, and how were the big questions. On Palm Sunday, 1943, at 0530, we were packed and ready to leave. The post inspector had given us clearance saying our quarters were clean, which meant we couldn't get back in them, and we waited, and waited and waited! The rains came, and we waited. Finally, at about 1400 we got the order to fall in. With pack’s and rifles we started the trek to the railway station. At 1500 we boarded a modern, streamlined, air-conditioned day coach, built in 1849, and borrowed from the museum especially for the occasion. It was the dirtiest, filthiest ride imaginable as we headed further south to Camp Gordon, all of 90 miles away.
After an unforgettable ride (we could have walked it much faster) we arrived there about 2200, waited in the rain. loaded onto trucks and finally got to our barracks at midnight. We were amazed. Our eyes opened. This was the type of army barracks, we had heard about. Latrines in every building, and large, light, airy barracks. However, we were too tired to do much investigating and merely grabbed a bed and hit the hay. On the morrow our enthusiasm jumped. We had the type of PX we'd all heard about, and movies directly across the street. There was another movie within a half-mile, and a service club right around the corner. We sat back and smiled, but not for long. We learned all too fast that we had a lot of lost time to make up for. No more simulating bridges; we built them. In fact, the training facilitates were too good. No one seemed to care how many trees we cut down, how many holes were blown, or how many dug. In fact, anything, everything, to attain our ultimate goal. It took us several days to become thoroughly acclimated to the sudden change and we put in a lot of back work cleaning up and building additional comforts for ourselves, but it was all well worth it. After the shacks at North Camp, cleaning the new barracks was almost a pleasure. As for the mess hall and eating from dishes, well, that was almost heaven. Because of the delightful surroundings we were even able to enjoy Kasiola's cooking. our training facilities were quite close by, and no one seemed to mind the short walks to and from them twice a day. Training had its better sides as well as the stiff, backbreaking, tedious work that was needed to become experts in our field. We doubt if any tone will forget that memorable day when for the first time (and the only time) we trained for the assault on a pillbox, and how we lined up in formation and Lt Uitz chose Dusewitz, the one man who knew absolutely nothing about demolitions, for the demolition work. Remember Dusewitz walking around for three hours with what he thought was a forty-pound pole charge? Those in the know I new it was a phony and that all the charges had previously been set, and connected to detonators which precluded any accident. Dusy guarded that charge as if it meant his life and to this day most of us can still remember the way he hugged it to his chest and warned everyone to stay away lest it go of prematurely: The actual problem went off without a hitch and included the clearing of a path through a minefield, the blowing of a section of a barbed wire fence with a bangalor torpedo, the advance through shell fire (simulated by placing quarter pound blocks in advance) and the cutting by hand of the second barbed wire fence, ending with the blowing of the pillbox itself. Immediately after the explosion all the non-participants up till then rushed forward as infantry yelling their heads off. The only damper on the whole thing was the constant drizzle that fell throughout the day.
The day we first went out to learn to pitch tents was really something most of us hadn't even gotten on to rolling a full field pack, but when that whistle blew we had to fallout. Fallout we did, with equipment falling all about us or dragging on the ground. Esmont's familiar "Hey, Joe, pick it up, it ain't ..." was heard. We started to laugh at his discomfort when he realized that Father Callahan was standing right behind him, but we stopped fast and picked "it" up.
At Gordon we came in contact with the chicken the Army is famous for. But when chicken is combined with pettiness it really was something. An order was issued telling us to get rid of our garrison caps and belts by a certain date. Most of us did, but a few hid them so as to have them for passes. Lt Uitz climbed up into the attics of the barracks and confiscated the ones found and with them a roaring fire was started. Dowd was given the job of seeing that the ashes had a decent burial. A good many other articles of contraband were also found, and with that act one of the best "bunks'" of the EM went by the winds.
One of the more exciting events was our feud with the TD's which started in their PX when a couple of their members resented the lovers of "A" Company stealing their girls from under their noses and from behind their counters, and took physical means to prevent it. The whole affair culminated in a march by "A" Company, led by DePietro, to the TD area. A near riot threatened until some bright officer had the air raid siren sounded and all had to return to their posts. Eventually the situation was ironed out, and soon the whole affair was forgotten. It was tough, though, to have the service club and movie declared off limits to us because we had to pass through the TD area to reach them.
We soon got used to all the comforts of Gordon and accepted them as the usual, but when the rumors reared their ugly heads again that we were changing our station no one seemed too sorry, for Gordon had been invaded, invaded by a foe that we were unable to cope with. Filthy little creatures had usurped our beds and seemingly the bed’s of everyone in the entire camp. Gas was used, but to no avail. They were trapped in the buildings, which were then sealed and heated to unbearable temperatures, but no luck. Our invaders seemed to grow stronger and stronger with each attempt to exterminate them. Roaches and bedbugs had taken over! Where they came from no one has been able to find out, but they certainly did take over. After each fumigation or heating we'd sweep them up by the shovelful, and it was not uncommon to see individuals spraying their beds and walls nightly before retiring in order to get an undisturbed night of sleep. They drove us "bugs". Perhaps this was one reason for transferring us to another camp. Whatever the reason, we were glad to leave, though it was tough breaking off ties with the local people with whom we may have become friendly.
As part of our training we did plenty of hiking, besides the regular hikes to Lintner pond. It was a regularly accepted thing to have our hikes under the broiling sun with the temperature in the high 90's or hundreds. Some of us showed plenty of guts by refusing to let the heat get us, and Naecker got his Pfc if for no other reason than his refusal to quit. Another one of us refused to drop out, but he was not so fortunate. He passed out, and by the time the medics got to him he was so far gone that he died the next morning in the hospital from heat exhaustion. Stan Granda's death left us all pretty cold, while we realized that before the war would be over others of us would die, somehow to have him go at such an early stage in training for such an unnecessary reason got us down. We had a very impressive memorial service for him, and the playing of taps by successive buglers brought lumps to all our throats.
One of our main bitches was the subject of furloughs. So one can imagine the fighting amongst ourselves when they were finally announced. Who would be in the first group, the second group and so on down the line? The first group left from Gordon and we all bid the lucky ones a mournful goodbye. Postcards began trickling in and with them the rumors of Rohrer's marriage. It was all a base canard, cause little Jakie had not taken unto himself a bride. The boys in the second platoon prepared a real welcome back for their 'good friend' George NolI. They decorated his bed as a nuptial couch, and raised it on a dais made of wooden boxes. All around the bed were various personal and intimate items, while under the covers were old shoes and whatever else could be found. Poor NolI came in and was greeted by guffaws, and asked many a personnel question. But the answer was, to all questions, no.
The crowning insult of Gordon was the MTP (Mobilization Training Program) tests. This was a series of exams given by corps to determine whether or not we had learned anything during our basic training or whether it would be necessary to take further training. All sorts of rumors were making the rounds. The morning of the day small individual groups were tested on everything we were supposed to know. It was a sort of spot check with groups made up from each company. We drew the toughest assignment of them all, and that afternoon we rolled our field packs and with the temperature 112 went off on a hike of about 7 miles. The hike itself wasn't bad. but the poor fellows who had flank security had to actually cut their way through the brush to keep up with the main body of men and to maintain contact with us constantly. We finally reached the area selected, and immediately posted security against any attack. We dug in, and started to do all the little things that we were taught to do in the line of military security and sanitation. Tempers were at a high pitch and most of the men were exhausted. Everything seemed to go wrong and the inspectors overlooked everything but our mistakes. We knew we were doomed to another six weeks of basic training. From the reactions of our officers and the men, and from the actions of the inspectors we realized we were foreordained for that extra period of training even before the tests had begun.
It was especially tough to leave after the farewell party we had in the PX. The beer flowed as it had never flown before and we all were a bit high. Esmont stood on a table holding his helmet and sprinkling "flowers" on us all. The breakage that night was high but the manager, with tears in her eyes, kept telling the OD to leave "her boys'. alone. The girls behind the counters were all crying as they tearfully kissed us farewell. Just before closing time we grabbed all the girls and started a snake dance between the tables, around the room, and finally out the door. Most of us remained on the outside singing nostalgic songs until we were told in no uncertain terms to "hit the hay". Then the fun began. The barracks had already been "GI’d" and we had pitched tents behind them. Half of us never found our beds that night and just slept out in the open. That party was the biggest sendoff we ever had.
Bright and early the following morning we controlled our hangovers and off we left on the first lap of the trip to Camp Campbell; Tennessee-Kentucky. Because of the lack of transportation the trip was to be made in two stages with three-day stopovers to enable the drivers to return and shuttle the rest of the division. The first day took us through the outskirts of Atlanta to Cartersville, Georgia where we set up a formal bivouac area on the town's airport. Everything was just so. On the way up we were greeted everywhere by the townspeople lining the streets and cheering us on our way. Some of the more enterprising of us wrote such things as “I am a lonely soldier, please write me” on slips of paper and threw them to the more charming of the southern belles. Many a correspondence was begun that way that has lasted to this day. Hussey had a real correspondence going until she made the mistake of sending a picture. Beside her, the "Angel" of Husinec fame could have won the Atlantic City Beauty Contest. The populace in and around Cartersville outdid themselves in their display of southern hospitality. Dinners and parties were thrown for us and the watermelon patches put "on limits". Returning from one of these parties Sam Berger was so drunk he couldn't find his way and ended up in the garbage pit. He had quite a job cleaning himself up.
It was at the Cartersville airport that we formally met General Paul who had succeeded General Eckfeldt as Division Commander. We waited almost an hour in the rain for him, but he started right off after introducing himself, and showing us his bald spot (the better to recognize him) to apologize for being late and blaming it on some inconsiderate officers. He made a big hit with us and promised us amongst other things, regular furloughs. Most of the promises were lived up to.
After three days in Cartersville we drove to Fayettesville, Tennessee where we stayed for another three days, then going the rest of the way to Campbell where we arrived in August 43. After the spaciousness of Gordon, Camp Campbell was a dreary spot. The barracks were close together and the entire company, plus some overflow from Headquarters Company (the Medics) were housed in two barracks. We stepped allover each other in trying to get around. However, the facilities were good, PX and movies close by, and the service club not far away. It was fortunate that they were so accessible for the transportation out of camp was atrocious. Busses ran about on the hour and by the time they reached our area they were so crowded that they didn't bother to stop. However, we managed to get into town and on weekends and three day passes, which were given with some degree of regularity, we highed ourselves to either Evansville, Ind., or Nashville, Tennessee. The former was a soldier's paradise, wide open, with good hotels, plenty of women and good liquor.
It was at Campbell that we came in contact with beer on tap for the first time in an army PX. They really had a system to discourage drinking. You stood in line for an hour and when you finally reached the bar you were limited to two glasses. No more one man buying for the gang. You just had to stand in line and wait your chance. By a little headwork and perseverance though, we managed to cultivate the "bartenders" and that got us more than our quota. It was a well stocked, though crowded place with some very charming girls working there, and quite a few romances went on during our stay.
The liquor situation at Campbell wasn't too tough, though we had to get used to drinking rum rather than whiskey, We had big parties both Xmas and New Year's Eve for those who were in camp. MP's were very cooperative those nights, holding the cabs for us at the gates while we ran out of the post and across the street to the liquor stores. We really put it away those nights, and got pretty boisterous. One of the more ambitious members of the company thought that if we had no rifle racks we'd have no rifles, so tossed the rack out the window. Another, to show his strength; punched a hole in one of the walls. Lt Nielsen was OD that night and really had his hands full. Rather than turn any of us in, he gave us until noon Xmas day to repair the damage. Poor Banks and Bistromowitz, their heads were breaking but they repaired all the damage and everything was serene again.
Once again our training area was designated as "No 4", but this time it was too far away for walking, so we rode. As the weather was getting cold the powers to be decided that the tops should come off the trucks so we could freeze, We did. We had day and night problems so often that we got to know every square inch of the area. Night problems, regardless of how dark it was, didn't phase us, and aside from the weather the two week problems went off without a hitch. Some of us actually looked forward to the problems so that they could spend time with Nelly.
Many were the night that instead of bivouackin, Doc Doherty and Matthews slept indoors and had a good hot cup of coffee in the morning.
At Campbell we became experts in the use of all types of demolitions, and some of us even began to lose the respect one should have for them. At a demonstration cue Saturday afternoon, one went off while Lt. Cavanaugh was still holding it and seriously injured him, and we lost his services for good. Barthlomieczyk was more fortunate when a defective booby trap went off. He lost part of some fingers but that didn't incapacitate him for which we all were very grateful when we went into actual combat. A near serious accident was barely averted when 'Honest John' Kenney and Esmont went into a house that one of the officers had booby trapped. Esmont got a slight burn and some paper in his skin, but Kenney was unhurt.
As part of our training we went out on many an infantry problem, usually playing the defensive against the infantry. On one of these, Fiano and the motor pool left at 0200 to get the equipment in place. The men couldn't stay awake so Fiano, even though it necessitated using a light, kept them up by giving them "hot feet". Koreman didn't awake in time and got himself a burnt foot. The rest of them stayed up. The one part of all these bivouacs and problems that was detested was the coming back to garrison for that meant that some of us had to clean the kitchen stoves, and we do mean clean them. They had to sparkle so that they could be used for shaving. It wasn't until some bright mind thought of painting them OD did that horror cease.
Basketball was a popular sport at Campbell and our rec hall was fixed up as a court and many a hot game was held there. The one that will be remembered was the time in which the "Old Man's" team composed of Murphy, Sinovoi, Ehrlich Simon, Berrick and Mc Guire (the baby of the team-he was all of 26) taught the kids that it takes brains and teamwork to win a game. They never lived that game down.
Beets have always been a must on the Army diet, but the rate at which they were going into the garbage pan was beginning to get the kitchen down. Their reputation for tasty cooking was taking a lacing from the men. What could be done? Busby solved the problem with a concoction to end all concoctions. Beet pie! The boys went at it with a vengeance, even demanding seconds until it suddenly dawned on one of them what sort of pie it was. The mere thought of beets and they lost their appetites, but Busby's experiment was a success. Very little of the beets found their way to the swill can that day.
After over a year of being together the first big break in our ranks came while at Campbell. Almost 30 of our members were transferred to the 105th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 30th Division and made a name for themselves both in Italy and Northern Europe. Spatafore, the lover, gave his all, while fellows like Wechsler, who had the biggest appetite of any man we've ever known, are back home after being seriously wounded. Cimino and Chaiken are much bemedaled and quite some heroes. We've lost track of most of them but we know that they carried on in the tradition of our company. Throughout the entire stay at Campbell a certain percentage of us, in accordings with General Paul’s promises were home on furlough, and by early December we had started on our second ones when they were unceremoniously cancelled. We were going on maneuvers.
Early in January we packed up our meager belongings, loaded ourselves and our duffle bags. and left Camp Campbell. It was a miserable, freezing day, and Colonel Flaherty (who later became the leader of the famed "Flaherty Raiders") was the convoy leader. He made the move a tactical one, no tops on the vehicles and an air guard on constant duty. This wasn't too bad except for the fact that later his command car with all side curtains up passed us as he was inspecting for violations of his orders. We drove to a spot just out of Lebanon, Tennessee, near the Cumberland River where we set up our base camp and waited for the first problem to begin. Problems were usually of four days duration, starting Sunday night and continuing until Thursday evening, giving us our weekends for routine work and passes. We were no longer rookies and the training we had had on the two week combat problems at Campbell were to stand us in good stead. We think, and all will agree that, except for the foxholes and constant danger, maneuvers were tougher on us than actual combat. Living conditions were much worse and the weather was terrific. We had hopes that maneuvers would be a lot of fun, but Thatcher ("Henry the bird man", "Coo Coo'. and numerous other nicknames) painted a rather dismal picture from his own previous experiences on the Carolina Maneuvers of 1941. Thatcher was right and hardly a night passed that it did not rain or snow. We slept but little. If it weren't the weather it was the "enemy" who seemed to do all their fighting at night.
The problems themselves weren't too exciting nor too interesting and one of us was heard to remark that he thought maneuvers were meant to be training for the officers rather than for us. On some problems we were the defending force and on others the attacking, as the time the second platoon under Captain (then Lt.) Redheffer who had joined us the first week of maneuvers, drove through a driving rainstorm over hills and through fields with the hope of getting in a surprise attack, and some house to house fighting. They arrived at their destination and though on an attack, proceeded to lay a "mine field". Vadala's squad was doing the job when a friendly half-track approached. It was told to by pass the field, which it did, as we all looked on foolishly realizing how inadequate the field would be if an enemy vehicle came. One did, in the presence of a half-track and "killed" us all. We had bazooka out but the umpire ruled that it hadn't fired as Braff, who was manning it, was busily engaged eating his lunch. Captain Redheffer made a deal, (or did we just take off) with the umpire and we all left on a seven mile walk to the company CP, Captain Redheffer carrying the machine gun the entire distance. The same night, in the same snafued problem, the remnants of the second platoon and Company Headquarters were attached to the TD's. They, not realizing that Engineers are not as mobile as they are, led us a merry chase, until in disgust we pulled into the woods, placed security and prepared to eat. The coffee was just about ready when we were "attacked" again by a half-track that was knocked out by our bazooka outpost, but for the second time the umpire didn't see it and we were all captured. Kasiola, looking up from his pots, saw an enemy officer with canteen cup in hand trying to buck the line, and growled "Okay, we're your prisoners, but you don't get any coffee here". Captain Otero, seeing that the company was now out of action, proceeded to take us to the rear for "further training", but one man refused to go. Pete Lehner, on a machine gun outpost, claimed that he was never seen by the enemy and therefore still able to fight the war by himself. After a terrific display of feeling he was convinced that he should accept the fate of the rest of us. After much trouble with umpires on the way back we arrived, soaked to the skin, at our marshalling area and tried to dry off. We finally did the next morning which was clear and bright for a few hours.
Ed Snyder's squad got their first taste of what a good leader could mean when on their first problem they were cut off and faced capture. One of the infantrymen along with them had had actual combat experience and went out on a reconnaissance. He came back and in the dead of night led the squad on a 40 mile hike through the enemy lines back to their own. This happened while Captain Wells was leading the platoon, (Lt. Light was an umpire during maneuvers) and making a name for himself at Regimental and Division Headquarters for his abilities to be allover the area at the same time. Some of the men will remember the time the platoon and Captain Wells were complimented by Colonel Scott on a job well done, and Thatcher leaped into the air and shouted, "See, handsome, I told you. You're going Up! Up! Up!" Somehow we always connected the fact that the first platoon was called on at Moyenvic because of their swell work on maneuvers.
While sleeping and general living conditions were pretty tough we acquired a type of wisdom that was to stand us all in good stead later. The knowledge of the ways of self-preservation. We soon learned that it was much better and more comfortable to sleep in a barn or house than cramped in a truck or on the wet ground, that a good breakfast of country ham and fresh eggs was better than our own GI fare. True, we paid for our comforts but we also learned to "scrounge around" and fend for ourselves.
Towards the end of maneuvers the company was bolstered by some men whose previous training as Engineers in North Africa and Sicily was to stand us all in good stead. These men had all returned to the states on rotational furloughs and were assigned to us. The smarter ones amongst us put two and two together and figured we wouldn't be going overseas for a at least six months because of the AR's on rotated men. Of these seven men two did not come overseas with us, Grimes and Cline, while the others, Genera] Smith, Barzal Mosley, Disher are either home or on their way. George Walsh is now on his way home, coming overseas with the 114th Medics of our Division. We were also put over strength by the arrival of some men fresh from ASTP. All these men quickly fitted in and became the family. However the company was to have a major shakeup. Seemed as if the various company commanders threw a lot of names in a hat and then drew to see who'd get who. We lost some men like Sinovoi and Rusin, amongst others, and got some pretty swell guys like Powell, Ferrante (Duffy), Nicholosi and a few others who have dropped by the wayside.
The umpire attached to us was a Lt. Gregory, nicknamed because of his size and ability to get about, "the Gremlin". On one of the last problems it was his job to check us on malaria control training. The first night wasn't bad. We wore our headnets and slept under our screening. However, on the second night, when we were going to have an assault river crossing, it snowed. It was snowing so hard and was such a dark night that even with out nets one couldn't see in front of him. Nevertheless we went ahead with the problem. When we reached the water nothing could be seen and tempers were running a bit high. Lasorso straightened everything out when he ripped off his net and waded into the icy water, to lead the first boat across. Everyone then took off the nets and Lt. Gregory just looked the other way.
The classic story of maneuvers, and one which we never tire of telling took place on the next to last problem when we had to cross the Cumberland. The infantry had been crossed and we were trying to get the cat across to cut down the opposite bank. The raft sank and we were trying to salvage it. Captain Redheffer, who was notorious even then for hiding his bars, was directing when a very impatient 2nd Lieutenant came running up. Seeing the Captain standing by he yelled - "Hey, you, Joe, you with the glasses - hop to it and get to work on those logs". "Joe" took off his jacket and went to work with the boys, much to the embarrassment of the other officer who finally saw the glint of the Captain's bars.
Of course, maneuvers wasn't all work, and that two week period at New Middleton when we tried to redo the damage and repair some roads, culverts and bridges was a lot of fun despite the weather. Several of us can recall being awakened in the middle of the night to find that our tents had blown away and we were drenched to the skin. Not as enjoyable that, as the dance we had given us by the Belles of Cookesville, where for the first time in our history there were more girls about than fellows who wanted to dance. We had a swell time trying to out-do the air cadets who crashed and who felt that we were poaching on their reserve. Then, of course, there was Tommy Jomassichio and his pet squirrels that he carried with him everywhere. We'll never forget the expression on Colonel Free's face the time at inspection when one of them stuck its head out from under Tommy's jacket. He tried hard to get rid of them but they followed him everywhere.
When we heard we were going back to Jackson, our hearts fell just a bit. Our recollections of North Camp were not happy ones and were still vivid in our minds.
However, we had no choice in the matter, so decided to wait until we got there. Who could tell, we might get in to the main part of camp. After a two-day trip we arrived and found ourselves right behind the Post Headquarters Buildings in the heart of the fort. We entered to the roar of the YD band as it played to greet us. Arriving at our area we dumped our bags and rushed to the PX directly across the street for a bottle or two of brew and all those other little things we needed, and besides we wanted to size up the gals behind the counter. They looked OK.
We were back in the camp where most of us had started, and we were all sure that we would be "gangplanked" from there. Before we had a chance to even look around the place and become reacquainted, we had our long awaited furloughs. They were like nothing we ever had had before. Except for a skeleton crew to guard and maintain the area, the entire company left as a group for home. We were a joyous group even though we knew these were to be our last extended trips home. We fought for seats on the overcrowded trains and a good many of us had to stand most of the way.
Training at Fort Jackson was for one purpose and one goal only. POM. Preparation for Overseas Movement! That chart on the Orderly Room wall was driving Simon nuts, as daily we'd come trampling in and claim credit for doing something, or seeing some movie, or listening to some lecture that hadn't been checked off. 54 different things had to be accomplished before we were "ready" for overseas. We started off with a week on the range where we all re-qualified with our individual weapons and also fired as many others as we could. We had very pleasant recollections of our first visit to the range but this trip was different. The hours were long and tedious and we were all too tired at the end of the day to do very much. We all finally qualified in one way or another and returned to camp.
At Jackson we all worked harder than ever before. We realized that we were going over and did our utmost to be fully prepared. With it all we had plenty of time for fun. Passes were liberal and we all took advantage of the opportunity to leave the area and relax. The stories we gave Captain Otero as to why we should be considered for and given three day passes were masterpieces of fiction and he probably knew it, nevertheless every chance we had we sent our full quota plus off on pass. Unaccountable members of the company with passes to Raleigh forgot to get off the train and found themselves in New York or vicinity, strangely close to their homes, but as long as we got back on time nothing was said.
The Infiltration Course we all remembered from Gordon, so it held no fears for us, even tho going through it at night. We were so busy watching the bullets ricochet, and making red streaks across the sky that the trip across the course went very quickly. Getting the sand out from under our clothes was really the job, especially since we were wet with perspiration and the clothes clung to us.
Along with the Infiltration course, and as a part of our POM requirements, we had another bit of realistic training when we went through the "Nazi Village" to get some training in street fighting. Some of our demolition men had gone ahead and set booby traps to catch the unwary, but it turned out that it was the "experts" who were caught short. Sciacca, not noticing Cohen's presence set off one charge almost blowing Ralph up. Fortunately no one, not even Ralph, who was no more than 5 feet away, was hurt, and the experience for the rest of us was pretty tame.
We had the utmost confidence in our members who were firing bullets over our heads.
Something new was tried at Jackson and was voted a big success. A Battalion Field Day. We all hied ourselves out to the lake and spent a day devoted to fun and enjoyment. Athletic events, both serious and in fun were held. The biggest laugh was received when we had the "Fat Man" dash. Some of the boys really surprised us. Bail games were held with each company playing at least one game in the elimination contest. The swimming meet held our attention in the afternoon but the really big thing that made the party and day such a success was the beer and "cold cut supper" dished out to us. Some imbibed a bit too freely and needed help getting back to their quarters and suffered with "big heads" the next day, but regardless of those few casualties all were glad of the chance to get out of the mood for a day and relax.
Processing our equipment was a real headache. Everything had to be done just so, and rightly, because of the dampness of the trip across. We realized this but bitched about it nevertheless. Towards the end of our stay it really became a tremendous job as we were denied passes and free time to pack our stuff. Added to that was the constant show down inspections which became a joke. One thing was accomplished by them. We all got our clothing marked properly. We wondered why all the emphasis was put on the marking of clothing, because after a very short time overseas none had his own equipment any more.
Physical fitness - What horrors those two words bring back to us. While we all realized that being in top physical condition was necessary, somehow the methods used to bring us up to that peak were not generally liked. Only by a lot of hard work and application can one really harden himself. Forced marches and plenty of "burpees" and "pushups" were the order of the day. It was all climaxed by the “physical fitness” tests. What a morning that was. We rode out and back, and the rest of the time we were on our own.
One of the real bright spots of our stay at Fort Jackson was the show "One Touch Of Genius", written by the boys themselves and produced by them. True, it wasn't strictly an "A" Company show, but Broude, Cohen and Crites, on the directing and acting end, ably assisted by Long and Ciccarone, and George Walsh on the lights, with two of the local belles for color and Lt Freedman for emphasis, made it a revue that was thoroughly enjoyed by not only the Battalion but the Division and moat of the men on the post.
Men were being weeded out of the company for on reason or another and we were rapidly getting below strength. To remedy this situation we received a group of ASTP men, who had previously been assigned to the Infantry in the Division, but who were sent back to their first love... the Engineers. A large contingent of men arrived from Camp Beale, California, and the company went over strength. The week before we shipped, some of our old standbys, Naecker, Viola, Heim, Matthews, Bernard and Pelullo went to the 12th Detachment Special Troops. We had previously lost Galanter and Corless who had volunteered for the Infantry. Time was running short.
A general in Europe looked towards America, nodded his head, pointed his finger at us and said, "I want you OVERSEAS." It struck us like lightning. Even tho we had been preparing for this one act for so long we all had hopes that the day would be postponed indefinitely. Rumors ran high. Messengers sped from latrine to barracks with the latest inside information. Which was it to be? A chance to see Gay Paree of a South Seas paradise. Which POE were we going to? The railroad engineer, with his ear attuned to our grapevine, pointed the locomotive in the direction of Camp Shanks, New York. We were all thankful that it was to be a place so close to the homes of over three quarters of the men. On the 21st of August 1944 we bid Fort Jackson goodbye. The barracks being in spotless condition and the area thoroughly policed we were judged fit for combat. Loading duffle bags on trucks and our heavy packs on our backs we marched under a broiling sun to the railhead leaving an assortment of dropped and fallen articles strewn along the road in our wake. Some of use were lucky and had new air-conditioned cars. Others had troop Pullmans. Slowly we rode north and in the early morning were on the outskirts of Washington. Here everybody became confused. The train went forward, backed up, took sidetracks, entered a Coast Guard base, roared towards ships in the harbor, turned aside and sped west. No one had ever gone from Washington to where we thought we were going by this route. Suddenly we veered north and a cheer went up as we hit familiar spots again. Bayonne... Jersey City... Hoboken, a glimpse of the Hudson River with New York on the other side. Windows were crowded with soot-covered faces and gesticulating arms. "I live on that street", someone shouted. "Why, there's my cousin", yelled a voice as we roared into the tunnel under the Palisades. Now we were sure it was Shanks. We arrived in time to see a group of YD boys boarding a train to enjoy twelve-hour passes. Hell! Shanks seemed to be a soldiers' delight.
Shanlks was a Merry-Go-Round. The day didn't have enough hours to do all they expected of us. One showdown inspection followed by another. We laid our clothes out in the morning and put them away late at night. Laid them out, put them away, laid them out. The smarter boys slept on the floor rather than disturb their displays. Fine and Gilhooley worked twenty-four hours a day to complete our stock of equipment and bring their records up to date. The strains of the Transportation Corps song blared from loudspeakers as we marched to hear lectures and see training films. Practicing the art of abandoning ship by going over the side on a landing net caused Panucci to be besieged with last minute insurance applications and allotments. With sunken chests, stooped shoulders and a prayer on our lips we went for our final physical checkup. "Can you see me?" That's fine. "How's your feet? Able to walk back and forth?" "Can you read my lips?" Your heart is perfect. "Take a deep breath. You fill a uniform nicely". Outside once more we held our heads high thinking of the AAA stamped on our bodies.
The Mess Hall at Sbanks was a chow bounds paradise. Thousands of men were served with speed and dexterity. Belts were loosened as the food piled high on the plates disappeared down hungry mouths. Kasiola stood in line with the rest of us and enjoyed a good meal for the first time in years. The PX around the corner was always crowded. Fellows stocked up on candy and cigarettes. Ice cream and soda slipped down palates in large quantities. Those hard-to-find items, watches, pens, and lighters were still elusive and nowhere to be found. The Barber Shop specialized in all types of haircuts. Two fingers straight in the air, an Italian warlock or a baldy with a scalp massage thrown in for good measure.
A change in shipping orders cancelled all hopes of possible passes. On the third night we were alerted and told we would be leaving the following afternoon. A few of the more adventurous ones took the bull by the horns and slipped out of camp that night and came back before reveille. Captain Otero yielded to the pleas of those wanting to quench their thirst by marching them to the beer hall. Another group sat in the open-air theater and listened to the deep voice of Ethel Merman as she sang the songs that made her popular.
Shortly after noon of the 26th of August we loaded all personal belongings on our backs and walked down the hill to the station where we took seats in cars which corresponded to the chalk letter and numbers on our helmets. From then on everything went like clockwork. So many minutes for the ride to Weehawken, so many minutes for loading on the ferry, so many minutes for the trip to the dock in Staten Island. Here Dugan discovered his cousin working on a tugboat and was able to own the distinction of being the last one to speak to his kinfolk. Volunteer workers of the Red Cross appeared out of nowhere and plied us with hot coffee, stuffed our pockets with candy, and insisted we eat innumerable doughnuts. To the strains of the colored OM band playing hot tunes we slung our duffel bags clumsily on our overburdened shoulders and started that memorable march that General Paul had promised so long ago. As we walked by the checker, he called our last names, we responded with our first, and started up the gangplank. We had no sooner got on than we were rushed downstairs, lifted or pushed into what were to be our quarters and literally thrown, bag and baggage, into a berth where we remained in whatever uncomfortable position we had landed until we were all on board.
Early next morning the landlubbers started to explore the ship. It was the "Santa Maria"' a converted freighter of the Grace Line, just repaired after the battle of Anzio. Our quarters were crowded. Hinged cots tiered four high occupied every available foot of space. An arms length separated sleeping companions. Treading the decks, peering into funnels, and climbing onto life rafts, the Army learned a little about the Merchant Marine.
The calm seas held seasickness down to a minimum. The clean smell of salt water was sought by everyone. Poker games and seven eleven blossomed everywhere; boxing bouts were staged and enthusiastically received. The daily religious services were looked forward to and well attended. The movies became the Mecca for night smokers. The clang of the ship's alarm had a sobering effect; it could mean practice or the real thing. No one went to sleep before hearing that famous announcement, "Blackout is now in operation, garbage will be dumped one and one half hours from this time."
The first sight of land nearly capsized the ship. Everyone ran to one side and peered at a speck in the distance. "That's Ireland" a broguish voice shouted. "Look at those green fields and that peat." "Don't be talking about Luciow," cracked a punster. For the rest of the day we kept within sight of land. Officers gladly shared their field glasses and pairs of eyes looked shoreward like a group of school children. Gradually the coast of England disappeared and ahead lay the Continent. France was on our right. Members of the ship's crew pointed toward two buoys that marked the entrance to Cherbourg Harbor. Wreckage could be seen strewn among the sunken piers and in the waters. We slowed but never stopped until we were opposite what we later learned was Utah Beach. A small Coast Guard cutter tied up along side and officers came aboard with landing orders. A driving rain started as we prepared to disembark. Landing nets were thrown over the side to the waiting LCT, by the numbers we went over the side and clambered down the nets. In a comparatively short time we loosed the lashings and headed for shore. We waited off shore for the incoming tide and became thoroughly drenched. Four hours later we were no nearer the causeway. Major Anderson announced chow would be served. Everyone could not move to the cans wherein the food was kept. The hand and arm system was put into effect. Frankfurters and bread passed from hand to hand. Potatoes were heaved allover the place. Finally at about 2300 on the 7th of September the big moment arrived. The front of the LCT was lowered; we grabbed a duffle bag, and marched along the steel runway to the mainland of France where we stacked the bags for transportation by truck.
La Belle France. What an introduction we got. For eight long miles and four dreary hours we floundered in the mud, with the heavy rain not making it any easier, on the few breaks we did have we merely leaned against trees buildings and posts. There was no place to sit down, after what seemed ages we finally arrived at what was to be our resting (?) place for the night. It was 0430 and most of us merely threw our blankets on the ground and slept on them. Daylight came soon after and we had our first look at Sunny France. We stayed around there anxiously awaiting transportation which finally came at mid afternoon, and took us to another marshalling area. There we made our first contact with the French civilians, and began to learn the value of cigarettes, chocolate and ‘'Chewing gum". By bartering we got hold of apple cider, which wasn't half bad to the taste. As dusk fell, we again loaded up and went to the now famous "Area B" near Videcosville. We pitched tents and got a good night's sleep. The next week was spent getting our equipment from the boat unloaded, uncrated and ready for use we also did a bit of exploring of our area and its surroundings. This was the country of hedgerows, and quaint Norman buildings that are so common to the Normandy peninsula, neatly laid out fields, completely fenced in, with thickly matted vines. We could readily see why it had been such a tough battle getting through these hedgerows. We also began to see the first bits of wreckage caused by war.
On the 13th of September we left Videcosville and drove completely across the Cherbourg peninsula, some 35 miles, to Carteret. On the trip we really saw the damage that war brings. Valognes, a city we had read about in papers back home, was a very badly battered town. However it is to the credit of the air force to say that only the central business and industrial part of the town was leveled, while the residential parts were virtually untouched.
Carteret was a beautiful spot. Our bivouac area was high on a hill surrounded by hedgerows and had a beautiful view of the towns of Carteret and Barneville Sur Mer, the English Channel and the German held islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Life in this area was easy, and the training in mines and mine clearance invaluable. Daily we went to the beach which the Germans had left heavily mined, and cleared a section of it. The Battalion had several casualties, but outside of Hucker, our aid man, who was hurt by a booby-trapped fence post, we came through it without a scratch.
Patton's drive was being stalled because of the inability of getting enough gas to him, so two truck companies were formed from the Battalion to assist the famous Red Ball Express, Two thirds of the company spent about 15 days riding the highways of France, seeing cities like Cherbourg, St. Lo. Chartres and Paris. They really lived. But bigger things were in the air for us, and the company was reformed in Carteret, and prepared to move.
For once we had a pretty good idea where we were heading, as the infantry had preceded us to the Nancy area and had already contacted the enemy in the Montcourt woods. With the first plattoon acting as an advance detail and guides, we started on a four-day trip across France. We had been the Strategic Reserve for the battle of Brest, and now we were going into the battle ourselves. We went by the most round about way possible, but none of us were sorry for it gave us the opportunity to see a great deal of France which had been undamaged by war as well as some pretty badly shattered towns. A good many of us also received our first and only glimpse of Paris as we went through the outskirts, and saw the Eiffel tower in the distance. The feature of the trip was the bartering or just plain receiving of the long French loaves of bread from the populace who waved at us and cheered us as we went by. A few of the more fortunate were given drinks of stuff slightly more alcoholic than beer. On mid afternoon of the 21st of October we went through the outskirts of Nancy, and continued on, east, to Athienville, where we arrived after dark. This was different. No more formal bivouacs, but rather dispersion and use of foxholes. Fortunately we used the area that had been previously used by the infantry and we found the foxholes ready made. It was here we heard our first shells and occasionally small arms fire, and at one time German aircraft flew overhead during the day. It was at Athienville that we learned about our "good friend", Bedcheck Charlie, who followed us throughout the entire war.
Aside from the First platoon our stay at Athienville was pretty much routine, maintaining roads that had been severely damaged by the combination of mud and heavy traffic. The first platoon, because of its association with Combat Team 101 got its baptism of fire much sooner than the rest of us. Two days after our arrival the 1st platoon, under Lt Light and Thatcher left for Rechicourt, where they relieved B Company, guarding a minefield. They billeted in a barn, which was under constant bombardment by 88's, They experienced a great deal of difficult getting there, and at one time were forced to return to Athienville. The following morning they arrived in Rechicourt and took over their work. Lt Dicus, while guiding them down, was seriously wounded and Spears remained with him, dug a foxhole, and generally kept things in shape until he could be evacuated. It was during the stay at Rechicourt that Lt Light changed his bar from Gold to Silver, and we lost our first man when Stansel was accidentally shot in the foot. Aside from that the stay was uneventful as far as combat goes.
The forest of Bazange La Petite was not an unusual place, but when we first entered it we had no idea of what it was going to be like. Throughout the woods were scattered giant concrete and steel dugouts of the old Hindenburg Line of the First World War, but we were not fortunate enough to have one in our area to be used. Instead we improved on the dugouts that the infantry had made, or else just pitched tents alongside our foxholes and waited. We were the reserve company and so did very little. The forest saw the formation of the 4th or "weapons" squad of the third platoon, a happy combination that worked well throughout the entire war. Here we also got our first taste of patrols, Lt Nielsen, Neilio, Fitzsimmons, Lewitt and SarJo went out after dark to sweep a road and recon a bridge. All the friendly outfits were advised of the patrol but we really sweated it out when they didn't return on schedule and at the same time C Company reported an enemy patrol and fired on it. In fact, they threw everything they had at the enemy, It wasn't until some time later, when our own men reported in, that we started to breathe easier.
Back to Athienville we clipped for a few days, and on the 5th of November we made preparations for the actual push-off, which was to really bring us into the war for the first time, That evening, after dark, Captain Otero, Plagge and Simon went ahead as an advanced detail to pick out a bivouac area and a spot for the heavy bridge equipment we expected to use in crossing the Seille River. On their way back the party encountered some suspicious men on the road. After reporting to an MP in Arracourt, they drove back to investigate and discovered them to be a German patrol who were caught flat-footer and brought in. From these men much valuable information was gathered including the fact that the Germans were to send out a combat patrol in strenght, whose primary mission was to take prisoners. For their part in capturing these prisoners the three men were awarded the first Bronze Star Medals in the battalion, by order of General Paul.
The next night the entire Division was alerted in expectation of the enemy patrol. The information was correct, and the patrol was encountered. Many were taken prisoner and some killed.
We slept two nights in our water filled foxholes in the woods, two nights preparing for the assault that was to come the next day. Nov. 8th was a day for us all to remember, as two things were on our minds, the coming day, when we would enter our first battle, and the presidential election, which had taken place that day. Both results would be announced the next morning to us,
Suddenly we were awakened in our foxholes, chilled hands reaching automatically for weapons, then slowly relaxed, as we realized that the greatest, most God-awful artillery barrage we were ever to hear was outgoing. For two hours our big guns pounded incessantly while the enemy who didn't believe any division, much less one new to combat, could attack after living in a 36 hour rain in water filled holes. With no infantry ahead of them, the first platoon walked into Moyenvic, sweeping the roads as they went. They advanced almost to the middle of the town, when they were pinned down by crossfire from machine guns ahead. The infantry, coming in from the flank, neutralized these guns, and they continued forward. Feeney was hit by a shell fragment but continued on. Suddenly in the midst of them, mortars fell, seriously wounding Lt Light, Thatcher, Snyder, Banks, O'Brien, Spears, Viscana, Long and Pisani, and for the second time Feeney. During all this excitement Cohen kept his wits about him and realizing the plight of the wounded men he took overcoats away from the Heinie prisoners and made our own wounded as comfortable as possible. The platoon demoralized, Bill Anderson and McGuire jumped into the breech, rounded up the men, and let them on to the river, sweeping the entire road. Meanwhile the rest of the company came down from the hills to do their job. The second platoon's mission was to rebuild the main bridge out of town and to put in an infantry footbridge, while the third platoon was to build two foot bridges. The heavy artillery barrage had paralyzed the enemy and they never had a chance to set off the demolitions on the main bridge which was taken undamaged. The three foot bridges were built in record time and by 1000 all resistance within the town was at an end. Prisoners by the hundreds went streaming out of the town with their hands high overhead, and walked unguarded to the rear in a never-ending stream.
The town was in shambles, without an untouched building, and we began to look around for some place to set up for the night, as our mission from then on was to hold the Division right flank, which, incidentally, was the Third Army right flank. In this we were assisted by the Third Cavelry. The CP along with the second platoon and most of the third were set up in the basement of an old barn near the spot where the first platoon suffered its casualties. The first platoon quartered in what had formerly been a German CP about 300 yards further out of town. Things were too quiet. Along about 1500 we heard the whistle of shells coming in from our right. The shelling was very systematic, starting at one end of town and working its way up the streets, through the buildings, to the other end. This first barrage was the one that killed Pfeiffer and wounded Shunk and Nastasi. Albert Pfeiffer was the company's first man to be killed in action. These shelling were regular and it wasn't until just before we left Moyenvic that the enemy artillery was putout of action.
Moyenvic had its other side. In retrospect they seem very amusing but at the time we considered them anything but. There was the time that McGuire and Anderson set off the flares signifying that the roads had been cleared, only to have four Germans run out of the same house they had used about five minutes later; or the time when Hussey, walking through a barn without his rifle, saw some Jerries in a corner, ran downstairs for his weapon and returned to capture them. The Germans were as surprised as he was. They had slept through most of the fight.
One thing that impressed us all was the quiet, efficient way that our Medics took care of the wounded. Not only did our Medics work hard, but also the captured German medics who worked side by side with them. For our part Gabel and Krammes did a splendid job.
It was at Moyenvic that Lt Sanders took over the first platoon and not knowing our propensities pulled out a bottle of Scotch and offered it around. It didn't last long. He didn't have enough to spread around the platoon but his manner of greeting and his friendliness made a lasting impression on the whole platoon.
On the first morning, while the enemy was still dazed, Hustler and Murphy started to remove the enemy demolitions from one of the captured bridges, when about halfway through shells started coming in and they hit the ground, but fast. They looked around, and started to think of what might happen if a shell should land anywhere near them and the demolitions. Murph yelled "Let's get the hell away from here and find us a good deep hole." They did. Next day at the same site a group was caught in a barrage and sought shelter. Steiner jumped into a water filled shell crater, and felt some heavy objects fall upon him, pushing him further into the mud. He thought the end had come, but it turned out that Captain Redheffer and Lt Nielsen both had the same idea, and their eyes on the same hole.
We were beginning to shape up, and we started to learn just who we could count on and whom we had to help along a little. Heroism was the usual thing, not the unusual, but we still want to remember the time that Kobren, under a heavy barrage, came out of his hole and administered first aid to Nessler who had been wounded, then v went back over 500 yards to get a medic.
Clear thinking is supposed to be one of the prerequisites for a non com, and those members of the third platoon who were actually freezing while guarding the bridge still thank Pomponio and Whisenhunt for their fast work in getting the tarp off the truck and using it to shield them from the elements.
Besides making soldiers of us, Moyenvic made cooks of us. We learned how to fend for ourselves and improvise dishes with what could be found. Moyenvic Stew became a common dish for most members of the third platoon.
Moyenvic was the only time that the company was together as a combat unit, and it was not until the rest in Metz that we were really all togheter again. Even before the bulk of the company moved out platoons were being separated for attachments to the infantry, or to work on combat teams, and in this manner the war seemed to move faster as we went across France.
The second platoon was the first to replace the riddled first platoon on CT 101, but soon everyone had his chance on that attachment. However, combat teams were soon forgotten and instead each platoon became attached to a battalion of infantry, and lived and worked with them.
About three AM of the third morning in Moyenvic the second platoon was awakened by Captain Redheffer. As they fumbled around in the pitch black of the early morning getting dressed as best they could, they received their orders, which were very brief. There was a German tank trap a few miles up the road that had to be filled in and bridged as the 4th Armored was expected through. Upon their arrival they were met by the crew of a half track who told them they had been unable to cross, the other vehicles of their unit had made it safely across. The makeshift bridge which they had used was completely wrecked, so the 2nd platoon set to work filling in the gap, using rocks, sandbags and wooden beams. The Jerries were just up ahead and a few shots rang out but passed unnoticed by most of the hard working crew. Bill Luyster and Rohrer were sent out as security and the work continued. With the help of Corso and his tractor, which arrived just around daylight, they finished the job. Trucks were turned around and on the shout of "Let's go!" they were off. As they left the area all hell broke loose from the German held positions as artillery and small arms peppered the area and rained fire on the site they had just vacated. After all their work, the 4th Armored didn't even use that route, changing their direction sometime during the night. At Moyenvic, picking up the rest of the platoon, they returned to Salival and bivouaced in the still burning building, the scene from the night before still fresh in their minds. The burning buildings and chateau, the flames of which lighted the skies and threw eerie shadows about. Shells, guided by the brilliance of the flames fell constantly and it was anything but a comfortable place to be. Two days later the entire company moved up into the still smoking ruins, and set up in the field just outside the walled in town.
After an overnight stay at Lidrequin, where we had to scour barns for sleeping space we hit Guebling. To us it was just another hot spot where we worked fast because of the constant shellings. To General Pat ton it was a real milestone. It was at Guebling that the 3rd Army had been turned back in its previous drive and everywhere was the evidence of the fury of that fight. Burnt tanks and vehicles of all types were still lying about, and in some of them could still be seen the charred bodies of the men who had been trapped. We had too much work tho, to do any sightseeing. After a very dangerous drive down a snakelike hill under direct enemy observation we parked our vehicles in a place of protection and went to work. Road craters were filled, bridges built, roads swept and by-passes constructed. For comfort and warmth the 1st platoon slept in the cellar of a burning building; not so comfortable the second platoon, which slept in a potato filled cellar.
We went into the village of Guebling, our trucks the first there, only to be greeted by a treacherous barrage of mortar fire; the look of awe and amazement on the faces of the grimy infantrymen as we sped by them. As the whining shells grew louder and closer we were compelled to stop. Everyone hurriedly detrucked and scurried for the high, muddy banks. Captain Redheffer, who had already been in to town, returned and uttered his oft repeated slogan "Let's go. We're only growing older here." He called for a mine detector crew and a demolition man. Healy, Pickler, Montagnese and Clifford, with a prayer on their lips darted after the CO and his jeep driver. The journey into town was a slow and tedious one, most of the time spent hugging the slimy earth. The air was charged with the crack of rifles and the deadly moan of shells coming in from all directions. Flying shrapnel made the mine detectors faulty, and the rest of the road, littered with German dead and demolished tanks, was probed with bayonets. Several huge trees stretching across the road had to be blown. Coming to a crumbled bridge the crew were joined by the rest of the platoon and a bridge was erected in record time. Yes, Guebling definitely was hot, especially that winding, exposed road down the side of the hill the Germans seemed to have zeroed in perfectly. How we ever went through it with no casualties was one of the mysteries we shanot try to solve. It was in Guebling that Whisenhunt's second sense served him well, and made the church back home a little wealthier. He and Pomponio were caught in a barrage near the railroad yard and they jumped for holes on opposite sides of the road. Whiz didn't like the loneliness so he joined Pomponio in what proved to be a better hole, for he had barely arrived at his new ”headquarters" when a direct hit was scored on his former abode. Result: One check sent home to the church.
At Lidrequin and Salival we received many reinforcements. One of these new men was Joe Konczos, who in a few days made a place for himself by the way he pitched in to do the work required of him, and help out wherever he could. He went out to Torchville on one of the toughest abatis jobs the company ever had. The trees where so heavy with foliage and tightly entwined they could not be winched apart, nor could mine detectors be brought close enough for accurate detection. Whisenhunt found one trip wire, and traced it to a booby trap, which he deactivated. The abatis had to be cleared by hand, so the boys went to work with axes to trim the branches. There was a blinding explosion and Ketchum, King and Fuller were thrown to the ground. Murphy's face was bloody and no one knew how seriously he was hurt. Konczos, well Joe was standing over the mine and he never knew what happened. Murphy fortunately proved to be just badly shaken with a bad cut on his forehead, and in another day he was as good as new. From there on work progressed very slowly and a long line of vehicles were waiting for passage down the road. General Hartness and Colonel Scott with a host of high-ranking officers stood by watching, but without offering any comment. Riegel mines were found to be plentiful throughout the abatis, which was finally cleared without any further interruptions. One Colonel, who was the first high-ranking officer to arrive at the block walked up and said: "What are you men doing?" Without turning around to see who it was Bartlomieczyk said "If you don't know and want to live you better get the hell out of here," He did, without saying a word. Bart sweated a little when the job was over and General Hartness walked up to the group, but was greatly relieved when the General said "Good work, soldiers" and rode through. Riding back they realized the full extent of his meaning as for more than five miles tanks and vehicles of all descriptions were bumper-to-bumper waiting for the road to be cleared.
There have been many bridges built during this war, but the one we're proudest of is the one the second platoon put up in Lohr. Under constant and heavy artillery fire they dragged an old wagon to the site and used it as a base, covered with telephone poles and some barn doors for a satisfactory bypass. To add to their troubles almost a half-mile of corduroy road had to be built. The work took till well after dark and when they had to go out the next morning to put in a Bailey they felt a bit downcast. They were really proud of that bridge. The site was under observation from a church steeple in nearby Munster, and every time the heavy equipment came into view it was a signal for a heavy incoming barrage. Captain Redheffer who had taken command of the company only a few days previous, went back to Regimental and told them that a heavy Bailey could not be put in under observed artillery fire and insisted that the church steeple be neutralized. It was and the bridge went in under the guidance of Sterbenz who sent a truck over the bypass to the far shore to help pull the bridge across. Shells continued to come in, but as the enemy no longer knew what was going on it was difficult in fact, impossible for them to stop us. In this job the third platoon lent their more than welcome help. For the original bypass job the platoon was commended by Lt Col Kirk, for without it he could neither get supplies or men over the river, nor evacuate wounded.
Our next goal was Sarre Union, but between Lohr and there was much work to be done. We learned the technique of using material at hand for our bridges and the ever present telephone poles made ideal stringers for most bridges and barn doors came in handy for decking. We were interested not in a finished job such as we were trained for back in the states, but rather a sturdy "expedient" that could be, and was, put up in a minimum of time to take the original troops and light vehicles across. The Engineers behind us with plenty of time could put on the hand rails and their signs. Between us and Sarre Union was the Saar Canal and the Saar River. These were bridged and the assault on the town itself began. For three days Rakowsky took quartering parties from Pisdorf only to turn back on two of them. The first try they ran head on into a tank battle and after a good deal of maneuvering and running through back yards and across fields got back to safety.
There was much road clearance to be done before we actually went into Sarre Union. The Germans were trying everything to stop the Juggernaut and for the first time we came across a new type of mine. 105 mm shells were sunk into the pavement, pressure devices set into their noses and planking to give more pressure layed across the top.
There was no way of knowing whether or not they were booby-trapped so we just grabbed hold with a prayer and lifted. Nebelwerfers, those hideous whining "screaming meemies" were also encountered for the first time. Liquor was plentiful, though we wonder if Cucciniello's efforts and troubles were worth it. We can still see him running through a barrage holding onto his jug of cognac knowing that if he had to hit the ground, all would be "Kaput".
Up a little farther into the Saar, and closer to the border of Germany, to a little town and a four day stop. Oermingen wasn't much, tho it was here that we had a good laugh as we saw the 87th Division come roaring through, fresh from the States, with air guards up (we hadn't seen a plane in weeks), rifles loaded, and dressed for the kill, in the pouring rain. We walked around without helmets, and our rifles were something to clean. After all, the Jerries were at least three quarters. of a mile away. We were glad to see our Jackson buddies, because they were to relieve us, and that they did. We packed up and headed some 60 miles back to Metz for a well earned rest,
On the 12th of December we arrived in Metz and set up with the entire Battalion in a large comfortable building that had previously been a German School. Quarters were comfortable, beds for all, running water, a large mess hall and movies at night. We worked feverishly getting our equipment back into shape, but many of us also took advantage of the passes offered to see something of this famous fortress city. The 3rd Platoon took an active part in the final capitulation of Metz by sweeping the road leading to Fort Jeanne D'Arc which was taken by our Infantry. We had high hopes of spending Christmas in Metz and went ahead with plans for a big party, but Hitler and Von Rundstedt must have heard of our plans, and off we went into the "Battle of the Bulge" and the relief of Bastogne.
BELGIUM - LUXEMBOURG
Through the snow, cold, and ice of France and Southern Belgium we sped some 60-odd miles on that wintery Wednesday, the 20th of December. It was pitch black before we arrived in Autelhaut, Belgium, close to the Luxembourg border. The move had been such a fast one we did not know exactly what our mission was nor where we were slated to go. In Autelhaut, 'invaded' at two in the morning by the American forces, we received one of our biggest welcomes anywhere, with the townspeople turning out in full force to receive us into their homes for as long as our stay would allow. They moved over, and crowded up, so that we could have a night's rest after a long, hard day's travel. Most of us received something to eat, whether it was a piece of bread or a slice of meat, and the people dipped into their scant supply of coffee and other beverages with which we, probably very greedily, washed down the food. It was a very pleasant two days there, and the people continued their very friendly attitude up to the very last minute, and some were quite sad as we departed up the road. They had seen our platoons go out on a task force, and prepare demolition on bridges, just in case the full weight of the German thrust should come in our direction. We were fighting not only for ourselves, but for them also, and many a person was seen with tears in his eyes as they wished us a speedy victory.
Our orders took us out of Belgium and into Luxembourg, where we spend one night stopovers in Reichlange, Hostert Les Folschette, Rambrouch, Christmas in Arsdorf. There was no big party, then, as had been planned for us in Metz, but a clear, warm atmosphere where we ate a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as we divided our attention between the beautiful, snow-trimmed landscape and the enemy aircraft overhead as they were shot down by our anti-aircraft. We had just reached the battle zone, and for us the Battle of the Bulge was just beginning.
The Germans were using every possible subterfuge) and warnings kept pouring in from higher headquarters that the enemy was wearing our uniforms and using our vehicles and equipment. Where we had been careful before, we doubled our precautions. Every person was treated as a suspect, every vehicle examined. Passwords were changed and then changed again, because we never could tell when or how the enemy might have gotten news of the latest countersign. There were standard questions to ask all suspicious persons, questions that any good American would know the answer to, and "What is Sinatra's first name?" became not only a routine question but something for us to joke about. At that time we really needed something. We used our gas detectors on our sleeves because we knew the Germans would not have a sufficient supply of this item to be able to supply it to all their patrols and spies. It was a fairly safe means of identification.
Luxembourg was a beautiful country, and in peacetime a veritable tourist's paradise, but for us its mountains and woods were only a source of extra work and hardship. The snow was piled up everywhere, and even the drift fences we built couldn't control or hold back the snow as it swirled through the air. The many beautiful valleys afforded the enemy all too numerous places of concealment for their men and weapons, and routing them out became a long, arduous job. Rivers and streams seemed to flow in a never-ending network that defeated our attempts to cross and hit level, uninterrupted ground. Every conceivable crossing site seemed to be either zeroed in or under direct observation.
Squad after squad, platoon after platoon was being called out for snow and ice clearance and mine sweeping, at all hours of the day and night. Here for the first time we saw the Luftwaffe and realized how lucky we were that the allies had control of the skies. Strafing definitely was not pleasant.
The Sure River was just ahead, and it was our Job to put it behind us as fast as possible. A bridge had to be built so that the infantry could establish a bridgehead for the larger bridge to come, the Bailey, which was to go in at Insenborn. The second platoon sweated out Christmas night waiting for the go ahead signal, but it wasn't till early morning when they actually went down to the river. Two footbridges were built for the infantry to cross over. The Germans were now fighting, as we had never seen them fight before, throwing everything they could at us, and utilizing every type of defensive weapon. The road from Insenborn down to the river was liberally mined and while attempting to clear it, rifle fire broke from the far shore of the river and killed Eskenazi, our fourth loss in the company.
The weather grew colder and the snow fell unabated, but the infantry pushed on with us right on their heels. While maintaining a company headquarters at Insenborn the platoons crossed the river and cleared roads and mines, abatis and panzersperres, and built bridges as far up as Nothum.
We crossed the Sure in time to spend New Year's Eve in Mecher Dunkrodt, a small village set like a pebble on the top of a snow pile, for that is actually what Mecher resembled. It was a small town, perched high on the snow covered Luxembourg hills, its roads icy and slippery, curving treacherously as they wound down the side of the mountains. Peace and quiet, we thought, would be ours, but we' we not as fortunate as our daydreaming would allow. The 2nd platoon barn was hit, as was the building where the third platoon had sought shelter from the mid-winter cold. The shelling continued for some time, but regardless, Boyajian, Guerino and Sarlo worked over several civilians who were hurt by the crashing shells and falling structure, administering first aid and evacuating the wounded to comparative Safety. Another of the close calls sent Tidd reeling in the radio truck as a mortar landed just a few feet away, cutting all our communication wires and splattering the truck with a number of odd, assorted sized holes, missing the "Dit-Dah " section's chief by a scant inch. But it was still New Year's Eve. We thought the barrage that began the attack at Moyenvic was heavy. It was, but compared to the farewell to the old year and the ushering in of the Year of Victory by our midnight barrage, the other one was like the mere ping of a carbine. It fairly announced to the Germans, in the language they would best understand, the things to come. Six days of constant shellings, culminating in rumors of a big counterattack by the Germans, the digging in of the company on the hilly outskirts of town, and the use of our " AA " Quads as ground weapons was enough. Had we known what was ahead of us we would gladly have stayed. To give the infantry a rest we, Engineers up till then, were to hold the line as infantry outside the town of Bavigne. We did not know then, so moved blithly off to that town and dug in, establishing both listening and regular outposts. The radio men, Tidd, Szeremeta, and Martinelli, with no little help from "Major" Hammel strung wires from post to post, connecting the forward and rear CP's with all the outposts. Their work was not easy, as for the first time they had to work in the snow of the forest, with no lights or roads to guide them, covering the wires as they went so no trace of them would be found by any patrol or individual who might manage to sneak through from the German lines, Because of the shortage of personnel to man these outposts, the company truck drivers subbed and doubled on the forward outposts and their trucks, Patrols were the order, and on one late night patrol, led by Lt Nielsen, they saw what they thought was a figure excellently concealed in a camouflaged uniform, blending perfectly with the snow covered ground and trees. A little movement of this figure and they all opened fire. So many shots reached their mark credit has still not been established as to who fired the fatal shot, Discretion being the better part of valor , the patrol returned to their CP, lest the shots attract other Germans in the area, deciding to do their investigation the next morning, On another occasion MacDonald was crossing from one hole to another when a single rifle shot sparked out of nowhere, and Mac hit the ground, Picking up his helmet which had been lost as he fell, he found a neat bullet hole through it where by rights his head should have been, Whether the force of the bullet or the falling of his body threw his helmet off he doesn't know, He doesn't care, either.
Four days as infantry in the woods and then back to our own branch of service; setting up quarters in Kaundorf, which to many of us was hotter than Mecher. Here the kitchen had several narrow escapes as 88's landed previously close and at one time shrapnel pierced some of their pots and pans, We weren't to remain here long, that we knew, for up ahead lay our next big objective, Wiltz, Before getting there, the Wiltz River had to be crossed. The platoons were attached to the infantry and while on one of these attachments Bill Anderson and Naru went out on a patrol to attempt a recon of the river. On their way back they noticed a German crouched near the wan of a cemetery, and they opened fire on him when he did not answer their challenge to come out. One of the members of the patrol, evidently believing it was a bit safer a little farther away, started running for a sheltered spot up ahead, and before the party knew it they were all following this one example, Finally one at them realized that they had no reason for running as all they had seen was one German, so they returned to look for the Heinie, who by this time had sought shelter in a more secure spot. They tracked him down, and could not get him to come out, so opened fire on him again, this time finishing the job they had previously, started, They searched his pockets for any papers he might have had, but found none, In his wallet were some bills, folded, and with a bullet through one of the corner folds. Opening the bills they found the hole formed a remarkable resemblance to a pair of lips, and that each was fringed in red from the blood of the dead man. Each member of that patrol now has one of those bills, as a souvenir, with the "Kiss of Death" on it, Kaundorf provided the first platoon with moments of indecision as to whether it was all worth the struggle, Gallessich had found a "liberated" accordian and his attempts on this instrument left the platoon wondering. If it came to a toss up, we'd all take Gallessich's playing, over Pop Crawford's rendition of "Marching Thru Georgia" anytime.
It was while in this general area that Rohrer, Heinig and Gustavsson were complimented by the infantry on the terrific job of mine clearance they did on the Nothum-Mecher road, under intensely heavy enemy fire and opposition. Not only did they sweep the roads, but found time to administer first aid and help evacuate some wounded infantrymen.
The 16th of January again found us leaving our jobs as Engineers and going into the line as infantry, this time in the location of a tiny town, Doncols, right on the Luxembourg - Belgiurn border. We found ready built dugouts, vacated by the German force that had previously been there, deep in the wooded area, with our CP back 100 yards in the basement of a customs building right on the border. Plagge, as usual scouting around for some souvenir or piece of equipment the company could use, found the first of several German radios to come into the company, and with the aid of our sound power system of phones to the outposts we were able to enjoy the music and news direct from the radio centrally located in the CP, punctuated with the amusing commercials of the Captain during the duller moments. The kitchen remained in Doncols proper but brought hot chow up to us three times a day. As we ate in the shelter of the littered woods, strewn with German equipment, we thanked the kitchen for this wonderful chance of eating a hot meal out in the cold snow. We were experiencing the coldest weather yet. Arrangements were made with the CP to allow us to return there in shifts and warm up by the stove that was kept going day and night, We were fortunate being in the woods, because things were hotter back in town, which was being peppered constantly by the enemy's artillery. We can only surmise that they did not know we were in the woods. One of the prettiest sights was watching from a distance squadron after squadron of our planes go after an enemy convoy hidden from us by the dense forest. From the volume of smoke rising beyond this barrier we knew that their mission had been successful. Some of the boys, even though they won't admit it, received a few frights and uneasy moments while in these woods. Avis, Boyajian and Lewitt were really alerted one particularly black night when one of their trip flares was set off with an attached hand grenade. They froze in their holes until a wounded rabbit went by. Dowd and Rice did their best to get us steak for dinner one night, but somehow neither had the heart to kill the cow that nightly woke them during their few hours of sleep, or who kept them constantly on the alert during their watchful hours. When things quieted down towards the end of our stay, the CO took out a patrol to see if there were any of the enemy lurking between us and the river, and to ascertain, if possible, whether the river could be crossed at the point directly before us.
After three days and two nights of the bitterest type of weather we were relieved by “C" Company. The woods where we had been dug in was the same spot where a body of Germans had been caught by our planes and from which they fled leaving behind many dead and all their equipment. Dead horses were scattered along the road and woods at intervals of about 10 yards. Our procession down the long, winding road into Doncols was certainly a strange one, and was reminiscent of the long lines of wandering civilians lugging the heavy carts containing their equipment behind them, a sight that was all too familiar ever since our first few weeks in France. There was one group of us mounted on German bicycles, weaving in and out of the tanks and wrecked vehicles blocking the road. Another group made use of wooden sleds and small carts to carry bedrolls, weapons and other personal equipment. Their figures were etched against the clear sky and white of the snow covered forest, and this grotesque group, hardly resembling an advancing army, wended their way out of the woods and back to waiting trucks in Doncols.
Kaundorf was still fresh in our minds, and for the first time we returned to a town we had already left, as those other towns ahead of us were crowded with other units of the Division. Arriving on the outskirts of the town we were greeted by the effervescent Lt "Lord Eppy" Epley, who was running around trying to locate the Company. New to us, he was assigned to the second platoon immediately. This time the really heavy stuff came in, as our second stay was no quieter than the first. The artillery CP across the street was hit, and shrapnel sprinkled the building where the second platoon was quartered. For some reason Kaundorf was declared out of our zone so off we moved to Liefrange, where we were definitely getting ready for the final assault on the Wiltz River and Wiltz itself, the capture of which, with its network of roads, would cut off all German support to Bastogne. While taking a crew of men, who had just finished sweeping a road, back to Liefrange, Mackin inadvertently drove a few feet beyond the cleared area and hit three teller mines in rapid succession. Neilio was blown clear of the cab while Mackin, Pottier, Guerino, Lewitt, Sarlo and Tluchowski were badly hurt. Chisholm, the Medic, tho thrown clear of the truck and badly shaken up went about his job rendering first aid in such a manner that the men could not say enough for him, and he, with the help of Marnell, who had come running up from the job, cleared the men from the burning truck and evacuated the wounded. Avis, Boyajian, Clark, Normore and Fitzsimmons were also on that truck, but fortunately escaped serious injury.
Plans were for the Division to surround Wiltz, so we built a bridge over the River near Noertrange so that the infantry could attack the high ground to the north of the city and neutralize the enemy artillery. Early the morning of the 22nd of January we sent a quartering party to Noertrange but before it even arrived plans were changed and they went directly to Wiltz, which was taken without a struggle, The Germans, realizing their hopelessly trapped position, had withdrawn. It was sort of anti-climatical, as we really expected tough street fighting for the city. Our primary job was the clearing of the roads and houses for mines and booby traps, which we proceeded to do before sleeping quarters were sought. Evidences of the fury and surprise of the original German breakthrough were everywhere. Wrecked tanks lined the streets, and it seemed as if every kid had some part of American equipment, which the 28th Division had been forced to leave behind. The natives, who were extremely friendly and happy to see us even tho their city was in ruins, told us that it was not uncommon for the German officers and soldiers to be seen wearing our uniforms. We remained in Wiltz three days, during which time we
built a bridge at Eschweiler, as well as doing a lot of road clearance work. On the main highways from Mon Schuman to Wiltz over 120 Tellermines, 85 Shumines and 5 abatis were removed by the second platoon, with the loss of one man, casey Magda, who was wounded in the leg by a mine explosion. Beside this main road clearance, most of the secondary roads in all directions were cleared of snow, mines and such, and several bridges were reconditioned so that they could bear heavier loads.
Rumors were flying once more. We were again going back for a rest, but by now we were seasoned troops and while we passed the rumors around we didn't give much credence to them. Instead we moved further towards the German border to the snow-covered town of Knaphoscheid, where we were greeted by direct artillery fire as we were eating our noonday meal. We certainly scattered fast, and remained dispersed for some time. Incidentally, we learned that Kasiola despite his short, bowed legs, could really move fast. When we went for our next meal, it took us some time to locate the kitchen as they had looked for and found a better-protected spot. No one was hit that afternoon, but that evening we were not as fortunate, A shell hit a tree outside of the second platoon building and shrapnel, coming through the windows wounded Ed Rice and Benny Nawrocki seriously, and scratched up Moilanen, Braff and Bartoloni. Baldy Barzal go his big chance here and went home on furlough, never to return to the company. The war ending while he was at Shanks awaiting transportation, and with the points he amassed with us and with his African campaigns he had enough to get him a discharge. While the CP remained in Knaphoscheid the platoons went in all directions clearing mines and sweeping the roads of snow and ice. The 1st platoon with parts of the other two, after being our all day were called upon at 2300 to bridge the Clerf River at Clervaux. As bridges go this 80-foot span was nothing extraordinary, but the weather was so cold that the bridge equipment froze and had to be thawed out or chopped apart. Combining the weather with the tired condition of the men and the fact that we had worked through the night one will realize why we remember the famous resort town of Clervaux.
Dame Rumor, still with us and stronger than ever, accompanied us back to Wiltz. Re-grouping we headed in a Division convoy back through Luxembourg City, knowing only that we were bound for somewhere in France.
FRANCE - GERMANY - AUSTRIA - CZECHOSLOVAKIA
Our night ride took us through Thionville where we stopped for a break and a chat with the people still on the streets. Our pleasure time was limited and we reloaded starting off again, a little farther into France, arriving about 2300 in the small, still untouched, snow covered village of Denting. It was a town such as one sees in the movies, thick with snow and surrounded by gentle and not so gentle hills and slopes where we could visualize the skiers gliding along against the horizon. As was not usual when we left the quartering up to the infantry, we found our quarters ready for us, the stoves ready to light, and a good enough fire was soon started for all of us to cook something to eat and drink. Our first day was one of quiet and relaxation, as we drank in the warm sun and shivered at the cold snow. The day turned out to be one of those brilliant winter days with the glare of the sun on the snow hurting our eyes. The burgameister was inveigled into loaning us some skies and off some of us went to test our ability. It was easy. Just look at Gustavsson swooping down those hills. Hell, if he can do it so can I. Yes, it was easy for Gus, easy because he had practically born with skies on in his native Finland. Fortunately no one broke his leg, but some pretty nice spills were seen.
It has long been a theory of this outfit that the worst weather possible always followed the YD. Now it was beginning to thaw, and the scenic beauty of Denting became a mass of slush and running water, as the snow gradually disappeared under the sun, and the green and brown of the earth beneath came into sight. We were again meeting mud.
All this time Battalion was lonely, for besides no one to guard them at night there were other things for us to do. With a great deal of bitching at losing our happy home away from all the worries and cares of the army, we moved off to Remering, where we stayed the longest of any place in which we were ever quartered in all our combat. As soon as we became used to the routine we were all happy, and believe it or not the weather cleared and the sun dried up all the mud and water. Spring was rapidly overtaking us and we were darn sure we'd make the best of it before it passed us completely and returned us to the usual "YD" weather. Our friendships with the natives were most cordial, and we made some very lasting acquaintances in almost a month's stay there. Our mission in Remering was the maintenance of well over l00 friendly obstacles and mine fields and the preparation of all bridges in the area for demolition so that if, in case the Germans attempted a breakthrough from Saarlautern into our thinly spread defenses, we wold not crumble. Remering was only about three miles from the German border and seven from the Germans themselves who were holding out in and around Saarlautern. On clear nights we could hear the firing. As precautionary measures we set up outposts all around the outskirts of town, with routine checks every hour . One night a hurried call came from one of the outposts over our phone system. A light has been seen from the church steeple and an answering light flashed back from off in the hills. Everyone in the CP at the time grabbed his rifle and dropped his full house, and were off to the church, to be joined in a matter of minutes by the platoons as soon as they were notified. The church was surrounded and a thorough search made of the inside, but nothing whatsoever could be found. Outside, in the darkness of the still blacked out area, crouched against the wall of the graveyard were two very badly scared civilians, who were taken to headquarters and questioned. As it happened their alibi was corroborated and they were set free. We had no more disturbances, but it would have been tough if those men had been spies. One of them was our main source of schnapps.
We'd been Engineers for a long time then, so decided to prove we were a versatile lot and could do more than construct bridges and sweep for mines. Someone in the company scouted up an old washing machine, which had to be reconditioned and fixed so as to run on a motor. This job was turned over to Sterbenz who is no slouch at that sort of work, and in no time he had it running in tiptop shape. The pressing was done by one of the local hausfraus, while the actual washing was done by Goldy. The clothes were clean, but we've never been able to get replacements on the buttons.
Aside from the obstacles we had four main projects. An airstrip for Divarty had to be laid out and built near Buzonville, a road had to be fixed, and as it turned out actually had to be built, a railroad station cleared of debris, and lastly, by far the most important of all, we had to convince the natives to bake us apple and other types of pies and cakes. The airstrip was routine work as was the railhead clearance, but the other two projects were really worth remembering. The third platoon found that they had the very nice task of clearing a spot in the woods for a road, and so they proceeded to do just that. They then laid some steel matting for a road surface, sent a jeep over and stepped back to admire their work. The Jeep made it, fortunately, but the mats sank from sight and were never seen again. It was the kind of surface beneath the mats that was not made for heavy loads, and everything sank in the slime. This time the platoon really set out with a vengeance, arid cut thousands of pine boughs, poles and scouted around for every piece of material, wood and stone, that they could lay their hands on. Covering this mixture with more steel matting, they again "retreated" to watch the jeep go over. This time their experiment was a success, but the jeep bounced up and down with ever motion of the vehicle. The road fairly bounced, and was nicknamed “Bedspring Highway” on the spot. Where there's life there's hope, and those pine boughs certainly had life in them. The apple pies were a much simpler problem, and the congeniality that existed between us and the people was enough. They were glad to make our dessert and we were more than happy to eat it.
We had still not entered Germany as a unit, tho most of us had crossed the line at one time or another. Our turn came on the 26th of February, when Able Company officially moved across the German border "through the courtesy of the 95th Divtsion" and we set up our quarters in very substantial buildings. But Saarlauther, for all its faded splendor, was a dreary spot. There wasn't an untouched buildings in town. One half of the city was held by us, the other half, most of the part across the river, was still in German hands. Street fighting went on constantly in the German held portion of town and the hum and whistle of artillery shells was a routine matter. The nights were so black that artificial moonlight was supplied. Here again our job was the installation and maintenance of obstacles, and more important the guarding of the stone bridge and other bridges across the Saar. For the first two days we guarded a floating Bailey over the river, but the Germans seemed to have it too well spotted and rather than risk the loss of such virtually irreplaceable equipment it was taken down. At Saarlautern many of us earned our Bronze Star Medals for the outstanding jobs of mine laying and booby trapping and for setting flares under direct observation and small arms and shell fire. The city was booby-trapped and mined at almost every turn, but despite the warnings Broude and Plagge went out on a reconnaissance of the neighborhood and came back with enough ink and type to start a project. The first issue of the "Commando Daily" (and incidentally the only one) took half a day to set and another half day to print one sheet of the day's news. It was the birth of an idea, however, and a few days later, when we arrived in Saarburg, that idea developed into one of the most constructive things the company has but forth. A mimeograph machine, paper, and stencils were “liberated” and our company daily paper under the new name "COMMANDO COMMUNIQUE" was born, with the first issue announcing the fall of Cologne. The Original Company Daily of the 26th Division from that day on never missed on issue. Its editorial policy was to bring the news to everyone, but as time went by besides world news, things of interest to the company was a whole were published, and it was even used as a means of disseminating vital information to men who were away from the company. The paper was the brainchild and baby of Broude who practically single-handed, (with more than meager assistance from Simon,) wrote, edited, and printed it.
From Saarburg until the 17th of March was spent in more or less routine preparations for the big, final push on the Siegfried Line and the heart of Germany. We cleared mines, roads and obstacles, working from headquarters in Weiten and Serrig. Some of us went out to the Dragon's Teeth and learned to use the new Radar detector, and at the same time bring back souvenirs for themselves and for Capt Redheffer's ever growing collection of mines and fuses. During this period we also prepared for the things to come by learning the technique of blowing pill-boxes and other enemy installations. The third platoon had the dubious honor of rebuilding a bridge that had originally been built by “some medies with the help of an engineer" Corso and Veninsky were kept busy with the bulldozer clearing and removing road blocks, log cribs and debris from the streets of Serrig and the vicinity.
Big things were in the offing and we could feel it all about us. A certain air of excitement and uncertainty was everywhere. It was just a matter of hours before we'd start moving. As in previous big pushes the 1st Platoon was attached to the Combat Team which was later called Task Force St Patrick, and sometimes miscalled Task Force Boucher, after Maj Boucher who led it. From here on till the end of the war Combat Teams were a thing of the past and smaller, fast moving task forces took their place. It was from Serrig that Patton's drive sent us reeling through the Siegfried Line, across the Saar Valley to the banks of the Rhine, then across it and the Main in rapid succession into Austria and Czechoslovakia. It started with the 1st and 2nd Platoons sweeping roads in advance of the infantry and removing road blocks at Brotdorf and Merchingen. The 3rd Platoon removed yard after yard of back breaking abatis at Honzrath, blew pillboxes and swept mines and as a sideline began the rather tedious job of herding prisoners who were giving up in droves. A footbridge was put in over the Prum River. All this took place on the 17th of March 1945.
Two days later we were in Labach, where Veninsky after almost 30 hours of bulldozing without sleep welcomed Corso home from pass to Brussels and watched him take off to the banks of the river on the outskirts of town. The banks were rapidly cut down by the willing blade and skillful handling of Corso and the 2nd Platoon put across a bridge for the anxiously waiting infantry! We were still in the Siegfried Line and so were busily blowing up pill boxes as well as clearing the numerous abatis and road blocks that the enemy were using in their final attempt to stop the juggernauts march. It was in Labach that we saw our first white flags being flown from civilian buildings. That sight soon became so ordinary that when we didn't see one flying we'd investigate.
Five days after Serrig and the beginning of the drive we were on the banks of the Rhine. On our way to Kaiserlautern the 3rd and 7th Armies, represented by us and the 100th Division, our old friends from Jackson, rode side by side on the first real modern highway we had seen in a long, long time. We cheered each other on amidst the usual insulting meaningless barbs, and when we stopped by a winery we shared with them. Poor Cucciniello looked in vain for his brother as his outfit went by but had no luck. Our CPs were set up on Duppenweiler, Labach, Wustweller, Steinbach, Elmstein and finally Mettenheim. While clearing debris from the road outside of Stennweiler the cat hit a mine sending both Corso and Veninsky to the hospital. During this period we welcome some old familiar faces back into the Company. O'Brien whom we hadn't seen since that fateful day at Moyenvic, Rice and Sciacca rejoined us. At Mettenheim we gathered our breaths after along snafued ride that brought us to the town at about two in the morning only to find no accommodations. Some of those 4th Armored boys were awfully surprised to find strangers in their rooms when they awoke the following day. Mettenheim was a quiet little town of scared civilians set up on a hill. During normal times it housed two large wineries where the famous Rhine wines were made. One of these wineries still had a goodly supply of bottled wines and champagnes on hand and we helped ourselves liberally. However two of our members took a bit too much and made spectacles of themselves on the streets. This was the first and only time we had an experience like that but we paid for it by having to get rid of all the wine we had loaded on our trucks.
It was in these first few days that we first came across the terrific problem of Displaced Persons, those unfortunates known as "slave laborers". They couldn't cope with their newfound freedom and were cluttering up the roads, living off the land as they tried to keep up with us on their way home. It was hard for us to realize the starvation that these people had undergone in their years of slavery and toil, and many of us took sick when we saw them carve up the dead German artillery horses that lined the roads for food. This horsemeat that we considered carrion was probably the first meat they had tasted in years. Russians and Poles where in predominance, though quite a few French were seen going towards the rear. We were a jubilant group and free with our rations and cigarettes. These were the people who had really felt the heel of Hitler's boot. We also came across the labor camps where they had been quartered and where the more sensible of them were heeding the advice of the Military Government to wait, for proper care and transportation. Despite the rigors of the days work many of us visited with them in the evening and swapped stories and experiences with the men, and danced and drank with the women. They were a jolly lot and exuberant in their new found freedom.
The Rhine had been bridged in our area and the bridgehead secured. After several false starts in which quartering parties had been sent out, on Sunday the 25th of March we moved out and set up a temporary CP in Uelderscheim. Some of us went to services in town while others just walked around and partook of a chicken dinner courtesy of the armored forces and coffee and doughnuts from a Red Cross Club mobile. The 3rd Platoon pulled out early and in mid afternoon we started out for the crossing of that last barrier to victory, the Rhine. It was an anti-climactical event. The bridge, a treadway pontoon, was completely hidden by the belching of smoke pots on either bank, and we couldn't see very far in any direction. However we were so excited that many of us forgot to do the many things we had promised we would if and when we crossed. On the far side we saw the fury of the fight for the bridgehead. More wrecked American vehicles were in evidence than those of the enemy, and the first town we: hit was still burning. We drove on after dark riding one of the famous autobahns to the outskirts of Darmstadt where we pulled off to the side to await further orders. While waiting we saw the wisdom of hiding the bridge from view. Enemy planes were overhead searching it out. They dropped flares in an effort to locate the bridge but to no avail, then we went to work on them. Searchlights pierced the sky looking for the elusive enemy. Tracers gleamed across the sky and the red puffs of our exploding ack ack were everywhere. It was reminiscent of a fireworks display at Coney Island. Suddenly there was a burst of flame in the sky as one of our gunners found his mark, but the Heinie, by skillful maneuvering in escaping was able to extinguish the fire. After what seemed an eternity, but was actually only several minutes the attack was beaten off and all was quiet once again.
That night we slept in the one of Herr Goering's prides and joy, a Luftwaffe Cadet School on the outskirts of Darmstadt. We drove through it's gates near midnight and experienced a sort of let down feeling as we saw the gutted buildings.
The Main River was just ahead of us, as we set up in Froschausen. There was only one bridge across it so other means of crossing had to be found or built. The 2nd Platoon crossed the infantry in assault boats in a rather uneventful crossing as the enemy had fled the other bank. Reconnaissance showed two ferry lines, that had been sabotaged, could be put back in working order. This was speedily done and we were firmly ensconced in Kahl-A-Main. We had heard about Alzenau from members of the weapons squad who had been there previously. Fact that is a town they won't readily forget. Fitzsimmons, Normore, Boyajian, Lewitt and Avis went ahead to sweep the road into that town. When they encountered a roadblock. They speedily routed out some civilians, who under the direction of Normore and Boyajian, cleared the trees from the roadway. Meanwhile the other three went into town to investigate. They were welcomed by the populace who waved and shouted greetings to them. as they rode their jeep through the streets. When they returned and made their report to the Infantry they learned that not only were they the first Americans in Alzenau but also the only ones. Two days later the Infantry had one of their toughest fights to take the town as the enemy had returned after our heroes left and this time they really set up some obstacles. Alzenau housed a large German warehouse, which we made good use of. We acquired our new high-speed mimeograph machine as well as several typewriters and those handy "loot" lights that we strapped around our heads leaving our hands free.
However we were pleasantly surprised when we entered the building chosen for us and saw the luxury of our accommodations. More or less private rooms, running water and flush toilets on each floor, electric lights and beds to sleep on. Souvenir hunters were in their glory as the Cadets in their haste to move had left all sorts of equipment including a very fine selection of musical instruments. Unfortunately there were other occupants of the building who beat us to the really choice ones. When daylight shoved itself over the horizon we packed up and were once again on our way. As our trucks went through the streets of the once flourishing town of Darmstadt we saw few untouched buildings, and some sections of town were completely gutted by the bombings. Darmstadt was only a sample of every decent sized city we were to see. We were moving so fast now that the artillery often had no time to fire their guns after they were set up as the enemy had by that time moved out of range. Hence it was up to the air force to do most of the "shelling" that preceded us and by the same token they concentrated on the big cities, manufacturing centers and transportation junctions leaving the average small town untouched.
Fulda was a name we had seen often in print. It had been for a long time a target for our bombers and was now being made our target. Before we reached there we saw what an angered and aroused armored outfit could really do. Just before we reached Brandlos we had to pass through a completely devastated and burning town. Not a building was standing and we were curious. Most of the towns showed some signs of a little fighting but nothing like this. Then the story came out. As they drew close the 11th Armored saw that the buildings were all flying the white flag of surrender and so sent a reconnaissance car in to check. The car had no sooner drawn abreast of the first building when it was fired upon by a concealed enemy vehicle and all the occupants killed. Lining up at close range, the tanks then gave the town everything it could, not stopping until every building was either razed or in flames. Payday was celebrated in a two by four room in Brandlos. In the midst of all the confusion of fellows cooking, washing, getting ready for guard and being paid off by Lt Steinkoenig, Charlie Norris paraded in with the most bedraggled prisoner we had yet seen. He was well past middle age and had decided that he had had enough of war and so was on his way home. We couldn't help him and we couldn't get rid of him until the next day when we arrived in Haimbach on the outskirts of Fulda.
For two straight days we bucked up against the stone wall that was the defenses of Fulda. Reconnaissance groups made constant efforts to reach the river and find crossing sights and it wasn’t until the second night that the 1st Platoon were able to put a bridge across at Glaserzell which was meant as an expedient to cross foot troops and jeeps. Tanks attempted to cross it and it collapsed much to the disgust of the men who were dragged out of bed to rebuild it. The bridgehead was secured and a bridge was to go in at Fulda proper. The 3rd Platoon worked all night building approaches for the Bailey bridge that went up the next morning. The city housed a large German garrison that were well housed in large modern barracks. With the completion of the Bailey, all semblance of resistance ceased in Fulda. After the surrender, these barracks were used by our own Battalion and as a refuge for displaced nationals. It was quite a sight to see the two Generals and their staffs, spotlessly clean with sparkling uniforms and glistening shoes march in at the head of over 600 troops to surrender. The officers maintained the outlook of the arrogant Prussian to the very end. They had put up a good fight before they realized the futility of further resistance. The streets of Fulda were completely blocked by the rubble of the wrecked buildings and it took a lot of hard work to clear them for traffic. The rail yards were completely demolished and the giant steel railway bridges were laying on the streets below. But we didn't have time for sightseeing. The rat race was on again.
The Platoons were now constantly attached to a Battalion of the 101st Infantry, living with them, eating with them, and transporting them on our trucks. It was this utilization of our vehicles that gave the Division such mobility and caused one captured German General to say we moved with the speed of an armored Division. This riding the infantry had it's other side too. We had to really get up early in the morning to beat them to the seats on the trucks. It was all in good fun and a lot of amusing incidents took place and friendships made.
"B" Rations were a thing of the past, but no one seemed to mind. With a case of 10-in-1's as a base, some delicious meals were cooked up. Potatoes, eggs and even chickens were being cooked daily. Each squad did it's own scavenging and had their own cooks who vied with each other in building reputations, The 1st Platoon claims that the only reason Gilhooley, Simon and NolI stayed with them on their daily trip with mail and rations was to partake of Moore's delicacies, especially those biscuits for breakfast.
After a two day uneventful stay at Tann we arrived in Viernau where most of the Company acquired pistols by the easy method. On one of their many trips Capt Redheffer and Plagge came across a Walther factory in Zella Mehlis, and picked up as many as they could carry, which they passed out to a few lucky fellows. Immediately small safaris were seen leaving the town. By noon the next day practically everyone had either a .22 or a .32 as a souvenir of Mr Walther. Viernau was the town that Lt Steinkoenig and Sgt Rakowsky came into a day late and announced tearfully that the supply and mail truck with all occupants had never returned the preceding night and that the men were missing. They were greeted by laughter as the Capt told them that it was not the trio that was lost but rather the rest of the CP. Gilhooley, Simon and White had arrived the previous evening as per schedule.
A short rest at Viernau and then the rat race was on again. This time we really moved, not stopping again until victory was assured. In rapid succession of one-night stands we stayed in Dillstadt, outside of Suhl, Schleusingen, where we lost two of the swellest guys in the Company. While reconning a bridge site outside of Waldau, the "Rebel" Pearce and "Ole" Hanson were ambushed and killed. Here also we lost Crapa when a mine went off severly wounding him. Eisfeld with it's large hotel, beer on tap and comfortable sleeping, quarters were enjoyed by some of us while others were busily clearing road blocks and abatis and building bridges. From here on our work became very routine, and it was just a matter of time before we knew that the war would be over. Eisfeld had been hit pretty badly, but as we drove down the streets we saw civilians under the direction of Major Hardin, more familiarly known as Major "Ya Ya," busily sweeping the debris away.
Sonnenberg with its big doll and clothing factories where we worked all day clearing roads fell by the simplest means possible. Col Scott picked up the telephone, delivered an ultimatum to the Burgomeister, sent a few shells in as a warning, and then accepted the keys to the City. As we rode in, liberated Russian and Polish girls threw dolls to us and soon every vehicle had a teddy bear or doll of some sort on its radiator cap. Other liberated "slaves" were going to the big flourmill and clothing factories and helping themselves. Quite a few of us also acquired some beautiful leather jackets that soon found their way home via the US Mail.
Kronach with it's big cathedral and brewery right next door, Stammbach where we saw our first movies in months, Markt-Leugast, Gefrees, with it's autobahn and the Czech border a few miles away. We had hopes of being the first American Troops to enter Czechoslovakia, but plans called for us to turn southeast along the border towards Austria. Kirchenpingarten, where everything was snafued and we slept in the fields. Then in rapid succession, Ruckerreuth, Grafenwohr, where we slept in German barracks and swanky Officer's quarters on the outskirts of a badly bombed out city, Wernburg, where we lost Brynkiewicz and Toronyi to Headquarters Company in exchange for Ciperson and Khoury, Bruck where we sent out searching parties for Capt Sims and his driver Eckstrand. Loifling, Hunderdorf, where Capt Redheffer, in trying to extricate Capt Pappenfort who was pinned down, was himself wounded in the shoulder and lost to us temporarily, Lt Nielsen taking over. Schwarzach, and then Deggendorf on the Danube. Austria was just across the river, but we did not cross. We went to and through Socking, UntHaselbach, Buchlburg, Hunsdorf and into Austria to a group of farm buildings called Eilmansdorf. The people, though claiming not to be Germans were treated in the same firm manner and made to fly the white flag of surrender. It was here that Capt Redheffer rejoined us from the Hospital. News was being flashed from all fronts of the mass surrenders of the enemy. They had given up in Italy and southern Austria and rumors were reaching us of them giving up on the northern front. Only on the 3rd Army front were they holding out. We were only four miles from the Czech border and wanted to reach it before the end of the War and the next day, the May 7th we entered the Sudetenland and the town of Zd Gloeckelberg. Here while on a routine job, Pop Murphy was pinned under a trailer and seriously hurt, Sterbenz also being shaken up. This accident put a damper on the news we received the next day in Hor Plana (Oberplan). The War in Europe was over.
While waiting for our future part in the greater over-all fight against Facism, we moved into Czechoslovakia proper, into Husinec, after a week's stopover in Jablonec. Husinec, where we are as this is being written is a charming town of overly friendly and sincere people, nestled in the beautiful rolling country so typical of this area. We are billeted in the Hotel Blanice and the envy of the rest of the Battalion. While not a luxurious hotel by American standards, to us it is "prima". Through some efforts on our part and a good many tears on the part of our charming host Mr. Ferdinand Friesse, we drained his fishpond and made ourselves a swimming pool. We also built fields for all types of sports and an outdoor gymnasium for the Captain's famous "dynamic tension course". It has not been all play for us though and we've done a good deal of roadwork and gotten in some training. Information and Education (I & E) school in a limited way is being attended. Many changes have occurred in the set up of the Company. Many of us have started that journey home to well-earned discharges, and replacements in both Officers and men have taken their places. We have been told in vague terms about all we can be told about our future so here we sit, patiently "sweating it out".