An Unforgettable Night

by Raymond LaCasse, 87 INFD, 345 INF, 1 BN, CO C

I was one of the original members of the 87th Division, which had been reformed in December 1942, and started basic training at Camp McCain Mississippi in February 1943. We were mostly 18 – 19 year-olds from all over the country. By the time we sailed for Europe in October 1944, many of the original members had left us to go over as replacements, and we had received an infusion of Air Force and ASTP members for infantry basic training. Below is an account of a memorable experience: “An Unforgettable Night.”

I was a squad leader in a rifle platoon of C Co. 34Sth Inf. Reg’t., 87th Inf. Div. in Dec. 1944. We were engaged in the Alsace region, poised to attack the west wall about Dec.16th or 20th, when the break-through occurred up north on Dec. 16th. We were one of the Third army divisions that Patton swung 90 degrees north to attack the underbelly of the Bulge. We were pulled off the line and after a long freezing ride of about 200 miles, settled into a bivouac outside the city of Rheims.

On the 29th of Dec., we were trucked to an assembly area near Libramont, Belgium, arriving late afternoon in a pitch black forest. Seems that we had barely finished digging in, when we were called to “hit the road until you run into Germans.” Our officers were upset because we were not given time for a reconnaissance. We were in a column of companies in the approach march, when contact was made with elements of the German Panzer Lehr and 26th Volksgrenadier divisions. As we approached the village of Moircy, we came under machine gun and artillery fire. In the ensuing action, a flanking movement to the left, my platoon was ordered to clear a hill on our right flank. We no sooner got there when we came under mortar fire that wounded myself and several others. When the firing lifted, the wounded were helped back to a farm house in the village. Battalion medics were able to evacuate some of the wounded as fighting continued in the village, and we were counter attacked by tanks. Unknown to us, our Battalion commander had ordered a withdrawal of all elements in Moircy, and he called for heavy artillery including corps (the big stuff), in an attempt to break up the counterattack. We had lost contact with Battalion, so we were trapped in the farm house, and for what seemed like forever, underwent a heavy and lengthy barrage, which did break up the counterattack. Medics returned early the next morning and evacuated those of us who had remained overnight.

My unit endured heavy fighting in the following days, and on January 6, some of my platoon were captured and spent the remaining months in a German prison camp, while I luckily spent 3 months in a hospital in England. On my release from the hospital in early April of 1945, I was classified for limited duty and never returned to my unit.