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Posted: 11/11/2001 11:04:15 PM EDT
Dad, and all the veterans before and since - thank you one and all. This is the only thing from dad's 'official' memoirs. He never did get to finish them, altho we have a large amount of correspondance from him during the war: When I was young, or rather, when I was eighteen, for I am still thought a very young man by many people, cooperation did not have much meaning to me. Especially when I could do or get what I wanted alone. Of that time I remember nothing I thought I could not do alone. Army life taught me that cooperation is necessary in life. Not only is it a necessity in life, but also a factor which adds satisfaction and flavor to life. Take for example the thirty odd hours spent fulfilling an army order while on the border of Germany. The reward was spiritual not physical, but is a reward which the elements not bad investment on my part can never tarnish. It was night and raining, not just raining but pouring - seemingly pouring with a vengeance, when our unit radio suddenly blared out a message. We were to move to a battalion some one hundred and fifty miles to our right immediately and at top speed. Our calls usually came in this manner so we were prepared for such an order. It took us now more than a few minutes to lock all the breakable equipment in place and get our two-vehicle convoy on the road toward our destination.
Link Posted: 11/11/2001 11:04:51 PM EDT
Roads were poor, full of chuck holes, but Andy, my driver, kept pushing the to and one half ton van into the darkness and rain at a speed of about forty miles per hour. I took the combined efforts of the two of us to keep the truck out of the ditches along side the road. It began to get colder as we wrestled the truck down the road. After about a hundred miles of traveling, the rain turned to sleet and began freezing on the windshield. At first the windshield wipers carried this slush away easily, but soon there were patches which the wipers could not remove. A few more miles of traveling and the rain froze the instant it struck, forcing us to stop every three or four hundred yards to scrape the windshield clear. It soon became impossible to travel even in this manner. But what were we to do? Immediate action was requisite. We decided I would ride on the hood to scrape the ice off the windshield as it formed so that Andy, at the wheel, peering into the blackness ahead, could steer our course. After a time, I happened to touch my jacket and found to my surprise that half an inch of ice had built up on the side of my clothes exposed to the wind and sleet. We stopped again to try and figure out a new method of defrosting the windshield. An idea gradually thawed out of a shivering consciousness. The power plant we were hauling on a trailer behind the truck included a flexible exhaust pipe. We took this, put one end on the truck exhaust pipe, and tied the other end to the rear view mirror in such a manner that the end to the pipe was close to the windshield. As long as we kept the speed below twenty miles per hour, the ice obliging ly melted in on small spot. We were moving again. A noticeable tension increased as each passing mile brought us closer to our destination. Seven hours after leaving our original position, we were in the general vicinity of the battalion for which we were headed. An M.P. directed us to battalion headquarters. There we learned that a radar set which had been placed up among the outposts in an effort to locate two extremely loathsome enemy mortar batteries had been the victim of a direct hit by an "88" shell. The crew had been in or sleeping under the mount , as a result nine of the twelve were killed and the other three were hospitalized. Our immediate mission was to repair and operate the radar mount until a relief crew could be gathered.
Link Posted: 11/11/2001 11:06:08 PM EDT
We drove to the edge of a wooded area, rounded up a dozen G. I.s, parceled out the equipment we wanted to take along, and under the covering fire of the "dough boys" in the woods, snaked our way across the last quarter mile of terrain to the radar mount. The mount was well concealed in the low brush which covered the greater portion of the open ground between the two wooded areas. The first sight of the mount drew a whistle of amazement from me. In spite of the fact that all of the "mount's" box car like shape (ten by eight by twenty five feet) was underground and only the antenna was above ground, this shell had ripped one end of the radar set open as if with a can opener. Tubes were smashed, wires and cables cut, resisters and condensers shattered, and transformers and motors torn from their anchored positions. The first job was to cut away all the debris, which was quickly accomplished. The second job was to repair the mount, but that was an extremely difficult task with the limited amount of supplies we carried. As the hours wore on and fatigue crept into mind and muscle, we began wondering why this job was such a rush order. Why couldn't we not sleep a few hours before finishing the job? As if in answer to our question, a barrage of mortar shells fell in the fringe of the wooded area behind us. For almost ten minutes the shells came in, falling like rain in a could burst of hell. That barrage of shells was the adrenaline we had needed. We continued the repair work with renewed vigor. Late that afternoon, as we were putting the finishing touches on the mount, the battalion commander sent out a message giving us the real reason for the urgency of the mission. The hour 0600 was to be "H hour" for a new "Jump Off", and if these mortars were not located it would mean many casualties and possibly no advance. We put the mount on the air for a test run at 1700 hours. Almost immediately a barrage of "88" shells fell in the patch of brush. The concussion of the nearest round exploding knocked the mount off the air and sent singing fragments thru the antenna's reflector. We "walkie-talkied" headquarters that the mount could be operated and asked for orders. The orders were to operate whenever the mortars opened fire and to shut down if "88" fire seriously threatened the mount. We acknowledged the orders and waited for the mortar shells to start falling. The wait was not long. Supposedly the "Jerries" hoped to catch some of the "G.I.s" out of their protective fox holes eating "chow". We snapped the mount on the air and started sweeping the sector in which the mortars were located. Almost immediately the mortar shells stopped dropping and the battery of "88s" started lobbing shells in on us. Since mortar shells were no longer falling we snapped the mount off the air. With the mount off the air, the "88" battery shells stopped firing. Now we began to understand the situation. The mortars were afraid our mount would locate them, and they were trying to knock us off the air with their "88s." However, the "fixes" their "88s" were getting on our mount were not accurate enough to do a finishing job. Therefore, whenever we went off the air, the "88s" stopped firing in hopes that one of their rounds had "chilled" the radar set. It was a kind of game in which three tired C.M., a lieutenant almost as tired, and a makeshift radar set were playing against time and a cagey opponent.
Link Posted: 11/11/2001 11:06:56 PM EDT
Around 1900 hours two men brought us some "chow," served with gallons of coffee, and some Benzedrine tablets. As we talked to them, we could see the hope of the entire battalion written in their eyes. The hope that we would get a fix on the mortar units before dawn. Their glances rested like weights on our shoulders, weights from which we would not be free until the mortars had been put out of action. Wishing us luck they returned to the woods and the questionable comforts of their foxholes. Around 2400 hours one battery of mortars continued firing, after we put our radar set on the air. We were able to "spot" our antenna on the trajectory of the battery's shells and to get an approximate fix on it's position before they firing ceased. We verified this "fix" during the next volley of fire. A jubilant battalion commander gave the order for every gun in the vicinity capable of reaching this "fix" to fire twenty rounds at it. We heard the barrage crackle overhead and anxiously awaited the next volley of mortar shells. They had been coming with periodic regularity all evening and did not disappoint us now, coming again almost to the second of the time schedule we had set up for them. The mortar battery which had been fired upon showed no action on the screen of our "scope." One down and one to go. We were excited, happy, and confident that the second battery would not be to difficult to find. However, the remaining battery was now very quick in giving the "cease fire" order whenever we went on the air, and the "fixes" of the "88s" were becoming more accurate with every barrage they fired. In fact, at 0200 hours a large fragment from an =9388=94 shell cut the revolving antenna to shreds. It took us until almost 0400 hours to repair the damage. By the time we were ready to return to the air, one of the officers had figured out a "trajectory fix" from data now available. His fix was surprisingly accurate. We set our mount to his fix and found it only two degrees off target in azimuth and one degree in elevation. True, this amounted to some 400 yards of ranging inaccuracy, but with a fix so close to correct we found the battery on it's first volley after we had received the "fix." We verified our figures during the next barrage and walkie-talkied them to headquarters. The "jump off" barrage began just as I signed off on the radio. We had made the deadline. We knew that some of the shells would be whistling to the fix just called in and we fervently hoped it was accurate. When the barrage lifted and the actual advance began there was no answering mortar fire. As the battalion advanced the two men who had brought us our chow the night before stopped at the door of the mount for a second. One of them said simply, "thanks." Then both of them moved on. Years will pass, day by day; still that simple "thanks" burnt into my memory that morning, will continue to echo and reecho in the very depths of my soul. I turned to wee if the rest of the men had heard this eloquent statement - Andy was the only one I could see. He was asleep on the floor. He had a smile on his face. He had heard.
Link Posted: 11/11/2001 11:09:00 PM EDT
And finally, so that the world never forgets, this is from one of his letters: A few days later the Bn received march orders. We pulled out before they did stopping the first night at Marburg (?). the next morning w were on the road again. We met the 116th on the road and started travelling with them. We spent two days Bivouaced in a barn in Nordhausen. [i]Here I saw -- I saw - the mutilated and starved bodies of hundreds of men lying in the dust of the Norhausen concentration camp. Those are sights I can never forget, and I hope the rest of the world will not either.[/i] Leaving Nordhausen we traveled up thru Gottingen to Friedwitz and Zellewitz. We were to clean out the towns in the vicinity of soldiers and weapons. I speaking German was always asked to go along any time we made a sortie. Several times some of the boys and myself went on our own missions getting a couple of loads of prisoners. Most of the time the Jerrys were willing to be taken prisoner. Those that wee not willing and tried shooting it out all found out that G.I. Can still shoot straight. In one bunch we caught two Jerry colonels, and had to shoot 2 majors and an enlisted man. Thru the entire period that we were her we lost but three men, and on half track to Jerry snipers. Several others were wounded, but those were the only three killed. They were ambushed by some Jerrys. During the time we were here we took 873 prisoners. Those prisoners were taken by two details of twenty men each working together as two platoons. Thet was all the manpower that could be spared from the guns, and considering the size of the force, and the number of prisoners turned, I think we did OK. Trucks never traveled the roads after the half track incident. Always two or more trucks with a load of riders. You see, tanks had driven thru this section of the front, but infantry could not be brought up fast enough in numbers to hold the entire front. Therefore we had to stabilize the fluid front in front of us. The infantry boys came thru five days after we got there. That is the longest time we ever were in front of the infantry. The only other times were when we got there by mistake for a few minutes.
Link Posted: 11/11/2001 11:16:50 PM EDT
When I was 19. I had the pleasure of meeting my housemates Father: Ed. Ed married very late in life and became a father. Only had one child. Anyway, at the time Ed was 74 when I met him. He was a supply seargent in the Army stranded with his battalion in the Battle of the Bulge. He was 35 yr old. Pretty old for a guy fighting a war in the snow. He wasn't a combat soldier, but he became one for that battle. He told me that they were handing out rifles to everybody, including cooks. Ed got sent up to the lines and shot at the Germans with his M1 Garand. I had 2 other housemates both whose fathers served in WWII in the Army but they were in the Pacific Theater. I met them. They fought at Guadalcanal, Okinawa.
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