Family and friends of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, attached to the 82d Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge, just completed its ‘walk of remembrance’ in the Ardennes. The purpose of the walk was to honor and remember the combat history of the Battalion. The Salm River chapter, C-47 club sponsored the event, a totally Belgian-sponsored event by the local citizens in the Ardennes, who know the history of the Battalion. While expecting about 80 participants, 180 people attended, making the event outstanding. Colonel Doug Dillard, the only 551st veteran present, was accompanied by family members and arrived in Belgium on 5 January and drove to the Ardennes from Brussels. On 6 January, the group visited Bastogne and the headquarters building that the 101st used during the siege of Bastogne. Colonel Dillard was honored by the placing of his photo on the wall with other veterans of the Bulge. On 7 January, the walk of the 100-plus participants started at the point from which the 551st began its part in the counterattack on 3 January 1945. The walk continued, as the weather changed to snowy, freezing temperatures much like it was in 1945. At each significant point along the attack route, Colonel Dillard explained to the participants what had actually happened, and answered many questions about the action. At the location where a monument stands to honor Company A for its bayonet charge, the mayor of Vielsam addressed the group to honor the sacrifice of the men of the 551st. Nearby is the residence of a City Councilwoman who lives in the same building that was the 551st Battalion Medical Aid Station, where Colonel Joerg died from his wounds. She provided a delightful lunch for the group. The walk continued down through the wooded area where a monument was dedicated to honor Richard Field of Company B, who passed away in November. Field’s daughter Ginni and granddaughter Rachel attended the event, and after the dedication of the monument, Ginni spread some ashes of her father over the field where his company had fought. On 8 January, the group visited a farm at Noirfontaine, where the 551st infiltrated the lines of the 1st and 9th SS Panzer division defenses, to conduct a reconnaissance in force to collect information needed for the forthcoming attack on January 1945. The infiltration began at midnight 27 December 1944. A German company commander was captured, about 100 soldiers killed, and a captured US half track destroyed. The battalion returned to friendly lines before dawn…mission accomplished! The 551st was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions in the Bulge, but it paid dearly from a starting force of 800 paratroopers to only 98 left on 7 January 1945 attacking the fortified village of Rochelinval. Airborne all the way…and then some!
On January 26-29, 2017 elements of the WWII Historical Association (WWIIHA), dedicated to promoting, preserving and respecting the spirit and memory of the World War II soldier, met at Fort Indiantown Gap, a National Guard Training Center northeast of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, to recognize and recreate the service and sacrifice of both Allied and German soldiers who fought during the Battle of the Bulge. Reenactors from all over the east coast, mid-western states and even a few “Tommies” from the United Kingdom, gathered on a windy and cold weekend. Beginning on Thursday night, the troops stayed in WWII-era barracks—although modernized since the ’40s—and throughout the weekend, they operated in WWII vehicles, both German and American, and Jeeps, Half-tracks and a Sherman tank. Thankfully for the Allies, Tiger tanks were unavailable.
Chow halls hummed with activity to feed the troops, which numbered near 1000, and included U.S. Army, German and civilians dressed in uniforms or other clothing of that era. Armed Services Radio provided (FCC- approved) radio broadcasts consistent with the times. A USO called the “Drunken Monkey,” the GIs “home away from home” offered appropriate refreshments to all Allied soldiers, just as long as they had their approved passes! The MPs were on patrol.
For a fee, various vendors supplied troops with all types of equipment, clothing, and other sundries. To boost morale, “Classic Pin-up” girls stopped by to boost the sagging morale of those frontline troops returning for R&R. They were every bit as welcomed as Jane Russell, Rita Hayworth, and Betty Grable would have been in their day.
After breakfast and necessary equipment and vehicle checks on Friday morning, Allied units departed for the field at 0800. They received their safety briefing and either mounted assigned vehicles or where bused to the training area. Upon arrival, the troops disembarked, formed up according to their assigned command, and then stepped off into history.
Friday’s event consisted of small-scale troop movements and focused on securing three bridges by elements of the 82nd, including the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment and 101st Airborne, who were reinforced by the 28th and 106th Divisions. All three bridges changed sides several times that afternoon, with a final—and, of course countered—assault by German infantry, supported by light armor, resulting in the surrender or capture of the attacking units. The great movie directors John Ford and John Huston wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Saturday’s event involved all attendees, and fitting of January weather and of the conditions during the Bulge, snow began to fall. Many motorized units of the American defenders became lost due to the lack of road signage, and at one point ran into a German patrol: “Nuts!” Yet, due to the heavy snowfall, most units were able to escape. As the morning dragged on, the weather began to clear enough to allow the Allied forward observers to spot enemy armor and infantry in the open. A platoon of the 327th GIR, equipped with three mortar teams, were able to drop sufficient HE rounds, resulting (according to the ground empires) in a 500% casualty rate of the enemy, halting any more armor or infantry advances in their sector. Many more engagements continued throughout the day.
By 1430 hours, the event was declared over and both Allied and Axis troops began to assemble in the roadway for the long march out of the training area.
Thus concludes another successful “Battle of the Bulge” at the “Gap” re-enactment. Many participants remarked that this was the best event they’ve ever attended, and in the end, we achieved our objective to honor and remember those who served and sacrificed at the Battle of the Bulge.
—Submitted by Chris Hennen, Member; story by John Cronin and Joe Colombo; photo by Marc Herman
The mission of the Military Honor Park and Museum, located at the main entrance of the South Bend International Airport, is to recognize, acknowledge and pay tribute to all veterans, living and deceased, from each of the five military branches.
The Military Honor Park began as a dream of a few in 1995. A mounted RT-33 Lockheed trainer jet marked the visual beginning of the park. A “pentagon” design would be used, representing each branch of military service, with five bronze service plaques and flags. Also on display, a five-sided black granite monument. As the park grew, a collection of other military hardware was integrated. They would include: Mark 14/17 WWII submarine torpedo; single 3” anti-aircraft gun; twin 3” anti-aircraft gun; AM General 2 1/2 ton utility truck; M60 Patton tank; M42 “Duster” tank; 155MM Howitzer; Hummer “Humvee”; Tartar missile; UH-1 Huey helicopter; and two Talos missiles. There are also 3,500 bricks naming military personnel.
The Honor Park Museum is home to military artifacts representing the five military branches and all U.S. conflicts. Uniforms, weapons, and objects as small as buttons, to as large as motorized vehicles, are on display. The museum also houses a research library and video room.
The Park also includes a granite Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Monument, dedicated in May 2011, with the financial assistance of late BOBA member Geza Csapo, 32 CAV RECON SQD.
I am a member of BOBA and a son of BOB veteran who was wounded there. I tried many times (without any luck), up until his death several years ago, to get him to share with me what he went through in the war.
My father was Roy M. Hershock, 8th Infantry Division, 13th Infantry Regiment, Company G, and all I know is that he was an foot soldier.
I would like anyone having information about my father, or his units’ combat experience in the Bulge, to please contact me. Sincerely, Bob Hershock
58 Quaker Hills Rd; Lancaster PA 17603; 717-871-9919; email@example.com
Submitted by John A. Pildner, Sr., 75th Infantry Division, 290th Regiment, Anti-Tank Company
John A. Pildner, Sr., a veteran of the United States Army who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, attended the Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, Sr. He was accompanied on this trip to Washington D.C. by his son, John A. Pildner, Jr., a veteran of the United States Navy and daughter, Pamela J. St. Angelo.
The Pildners’ experience of attending a Presidential Inauguration Ceremony together was a rare opportunity to witness a piece of American history that occurs once every four years. There were many who helped make this trip happen: family members, friends, and even a stranger who was also present at the rally in Geneva.
This trip started when Pildner, Sr. and his daughter Pam attended a Trump rally at the Spire Institute located near Geneva, OH. A memorable moment here was when, at the conclusion of the campaign speech, Mr. Trump saluted Pildner, Sr., to which he offered a return salute.
The Pildners’ trip to Washington, D.C. was highlighted by a side trip to Arlington National Cemetery. They visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Pildners witnessed the changing of the guard. Here the Pildners were greeted by Marty McFarlin, a Tomb Guard who served in 1973 – 1974, and who emotionally thanked Pildner, Sr. and all of the WWII veterans who fought to preserve, protect, and defend the freedoms of many around the world.
Another highlight of this occasion was locating the burial spot of Dalton Raze, who was a platoon leader in the 290th Anti-Tank Company of the 75th Infantry Division. He rose through the ranks from a 2nd Lieutenant to a Full Colonel at the time of his retirement from the military. At one time during his military career, Raze had carried the codes for the U. S. President.
Pildner served in the mine platoon of the 290th Regiment Anti-Tank Company of the 75th Infantry Division. This was the same company in which Dalton D. Raze served during WWII.
This trip to the Presidential Inauguration of Donald J. Trump, Sr. was a great experience!
Presented October 6, 1998 to The Central Mass. Chapter, VBOB, by Cliff Duxbury, historian
Frank Wooldridge is among a few WW II veterans who upstaged the draft by at least 4 years. It was in 1939 that he joined the National Guard’s 181st Infantry, 26th “Yankee” Division in Worcester and became a medic. It was a time when the Guard had limited finances, a modicum of equipment, and something less than a formalized training program.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 the status of Worcester’s Guard unit changed. By December 7, 1941 the 26th Division was as Federalized and Frank’s medical detachment was sent to Camp Edwards for basic training and soon after was mobilized for assignment to Coast Patrol duty to keep a watchful eye on the East Coast ranging from the Cape to Northern Maine. It was at Edwards that Frank was raised in rank to a staff sergeant. Later moving to Sacco, Maine, Frank was among a group that established an infirmary there. He moved again to Camden, Maine where he was assigned sergeant-in-charge of another infirmary.
In October 1943, he left the 181st and was sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where he joined the 315th Medical Battalion, 357th Regiment, 90th Texas-Oklahoma Division. Departing New York in March 1944, the 90th reached England and Cardiff, Wales by April 9.
Intensive training followed for the infantry covering mine detection, village fighting, road marches and obstacle courses. “Invasion Fever” gripped the 90th and true to the nature of their preparation, the division moved across the Channel on June 6, 1944 —“D Day.”
Frank recalls that it took 5 long hours from Southampton before he touched down on Utah Beach with the 357th Regiment. On arrival Frank commented that the opposition on the beach was minimal but the intensity of German shelling in his landing zone continued and the medical ranks too casualties. On D plus 1, the 315th Medical Battalion set up a temporary aid station about 1/2 mile inland where casualties kept them fully occupied.
In the earliest days of the invasion, the 90th was given the mission of containing German forces trapped in the northern tip of the Normandy Peninsula. Fighting was heavy and casualties were many. The 315th Medics were kept overworked. By the end of June, however, Cherbourg, the major Normandy port in the upper peninsula, fell and the area was cleared of Germans.
At the end of July, one month later, St. Lo, Coutance and Avranches were behind the 90th. The Germans were pushed from Normandy totally and the 90th was among several divisions that reached the plains of France where a “war of Movement” began and continued almost without interruption.
Movement, heavy fighting and land advances followed for American forces when the formidable events of the Falaise Gap took place. In mid-August, 1945, it was at Falaise that German forces of the 7th Army began a full retreat and attempted to squirm through a narrow valley remaining open. The only remaining door located through the French castle town of Chambois was their chosen route. It was here that the 90th Division established road blocks to keep the Germans contained. Divisional artillery, 11 battalions strong, fired relentlessly on the bogged down Germans—inflicting heavy casualties, disrupting counter-attacks and simply pouring a hail of steel on the reeling German remnants.
And into this storm the unarmed medics of the 315th Medical Battalion performed their tasks under fire, evacuating American casualties as well as enemy wounded. A truce was eventually called in order that the wounded might be attended under less harrowing conditions and removed from the field of battle. Frank’s 315th, in spite of sniper fire, (clearly a violation of the truce terms) carried out their mission with gallantry. Working with unit doctors, Frank administered morphine to settle casualties in severe pain and administered plasma, as well, to those men who were suffering continuing blood losses. Additionally, his duties involved general first aid to GI’s preparatory to their movement to rear area hospital for more specialized handling.
By August 20, 1 944 – the Falaise Gap was closed on the bulk of the German 7th Army. 13,000 Germans surrendered to the 90th in a period of 4-days.
When in mid-December, the “Bulge” began in Belgium and Luxembourg, the 90th was ordered to disengage from the Saar River. On January 5, 1945, the division made a 50- mile convoy trek to an assembly area in Luxembourg. And in bitter, bitter cold began an assault along the perimeter of the attacking 7th German Army’s salient on the extreme southern flank of their offensive line. Fighting in an area just south and east of Bastogne, the 90th’s speed and power of assault surprised the Germans. On the 4th day of battle, the T/O division had fought their way onto Belgium soil along with the 35th and 6th Armored Divisions at their sides. The salient had been liquidated.
By January 16, the 90th straightened out their lines looking Eastward and by the 29th of January, 1945 stood on German ground for the 2nd time.
From the Bulge, battles bristled along the Siegfried Line, across the Rhine in March to points along the Czech border. On May 7 a final combat mission set to rescue Prague, the Czech capitol, was postponed when Divisional Headquarters was notified that the German High Command had surrendered.
Frank was returned to the States in Fall, 1945 to Ft. Devens where he was discharged on October 26. He rejoined the National Guard 7 years later when the Guard was looking for experienced veterans to fill their ranks. He served an additional 3 years and left the military behind him for good.
Our thanks to Frank Wooldridge for his long, faithful and vital service to his fellow GIs during World War II.
—Submitted by John McAuliffe, President, Chapter 22
When Ralph Bozorth attended a meeting of the Delaware Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge with a friend VBOB member, he instantly became deeply interested, although not a veteran himself. He joined as an Associate and was soon driving a few of us older suburban members in to meetings at the Naval Yard in Philadelphia and became actively involved, bringing his vitality and expertise to the group. The new electronic age had left most of us behind, so we instantly relied on him. He enrolled all the chapter veterans in the WWII Registry of Remembrances (as well as many more veterans over the years) and created a slide presentation containing veterans’ photos which he presented at reunions.
Recognized for his abilities, he was elected as a Trustee on the Executive Council of National VBOB. Later, taking on the responsibilities of Treasurer, he worked diligently to solve the IRS problems and to get VBOB incorporated. If he himself couldn’t do something, he found someone who could. At reunions, he was seen rushing around organizing bus trips, showing film presentations, and sometimes handling all the other responsibilities of chairman.
But much of his activity for VBOB was behind the scenes and with our website, bringing in his stepson Kevin Diehl to revamp it, making it more accessible and complete, including a searchable digital archive of all issues of The Bulge Bugle. They added the website’s VBOB store, where one can buy QM merchandise, and added online Reunion Registration and a photo gallery of BOB veterans. Ralph posted many photos and news stories to the website on an almost daily basis for years.
Letters were sent by him to all of our member authors who have had their battle stories printed in The Bulge Bugle, to get permission to reprint them in a book. Through his efforts, the book called “The Battle of the Bulge: True Stories from the Men and Women Who Survived” is now printed upon demand and is sold on Amazon’s and Barnes and Nobles’ websites. We receive royalties from the sales of the book. [Click here for how to purchase the book.]
When no longer able to attend reunions because of his wife’s illness, he continued working quietly in the background, helping to edit the Bugle, and became Editor upon the death of George Chekan, who had been editor for many years. Now he has retired, and the website and publication are being handled efficiently by Kevin and Tracey Diehl, VBOB Member Services. His accomplishments on behalf of VBOB have been too numerous to list here. Our best way of summing up is that Ralph brought VBOB into the 2lst Century. We at VBOB thank him for that.
For a half century, Howell Dulaney would not talk about World War II. He tried to shut it out. He didn’t want to think about the horrors he experienced in the war, and he wanted the nightmares to stop.
“It just gets so real. It leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling,” he said.
“It was 50 years after the war before I thought about talking about it,” he said.
That happened after he joined the George S. Patton, Jr., Chapter of the Battle of the Bulge in Birmingham, an exclusive group of veterans of that battle.
My dad, William J Flynn, was a Staff Sergeant with the 106th Infantry Division, HQ Co. I wanted to share some of the material I found related to his war experience.
Here is an excerpt of a letter William sent to his brother Ed, dated February 8, 1945 and titled “SOMEWHERE IN BELGIUM.”
“After the big German Dec. offensive had been stopped, we pulled into a village in Belgium and it has been more of a rest area than anything else. Man, we really appreciated it. As Mother has probably told you, a buddy of mine and myself are sleeping in a home on a feather bed. Man, I mean it’s the best go! It won’t last long, though, as we will probably move back again in a few days. They don’t let a combat infantry division rest very long. There were a couple of girls in the home where we stay and I really have a lot of fun. These Belgian gals are not bad at all . . . .
“Oh well it’s a lot of fun and we sure needed a little of it after the hell we went through during the German offensive. Ed, everyone was called on to help stop that big push. We were taken to a hillside at night and had to dig foxholes in the dark. You couldn’t see a thing and you couldn’t even think of lighting a match or flashlight or anything else. We spent several nights in those holes and I’m telling you I [almost] froze. We also knew the Germans were all around us, and that didn’t make you feel any better. Buzz bombs going over, airplanes fighting, artillery and machine guns firing, the sky full of flares and tracer bullets. It was like nights in hell. I saw sights, Ed, I can’t write about and I may see more before this mess is over, but I hope not. Believe me, Ed, when I say “war is really Hell.” When fellows you have known a long time are killed, wounded and taken prisoner, it really gives you a funny feeling. You will never know until I come home how close I was to being among some of those. Ed, the Germans are just as bad as the Japs. There isn’t anything they won’t do. I know, I’ve seen what they have done. I’ve talked to these Belgian civilians and heard their stories. I’ve seen dead Germans laying around frozen stiff, but it just doesn’t affect you like it would seeing a dead person in the States. Especially when you know what they have done to your buddies and then, too, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be over here. I could tell you a lot of stories about them, but I guess I had better not.” The letter is signed “Love to a swell brother, Bill.”
And here is an excerpt from another letter Dad sent from Germany on April 28, 1945. His Division had been assigned POW duty in the Bad Ems area. The Bulge was over, of course, but I found the first person observations to be interesting:
“Well Ed, I am now in Germany. It is really pretty through the rural districts, but a lot of their towns and cities are really leveled. The country reminds me of the States, with the pretty farms and neat homes. We do not associate with the civilians in any way. We do not even speak to them. We have to be on the lookout all the time and we always travel in pairs. The people try hard to be friendly but we know that in their hearts they hate us, and we are not taking any chances with these babies. Every one of their books and magazines has Hitler’s picture in it. Yesterday we raised Old Glory over this place and our band played “The Star Spangled Banner.” They just stopped and stared as our Flag waved in the breeze where the swastika once flew. They really thought they were a super-race, and it hurts their pride when we have conquered them and then just ignore them. They just gaze in amazement as tanks, trucks, jeeps, guns and other vehicles of war rush by, while overhead great fleets of bombers roar. They all symbolize the might of America and the downfall of Germany. These people don’t look like the people of France and Belgium. They are well fed, well dressed, and seem to have plenty of everything. Their homes are nice and are nearly all modern. We often take over one that is intact, with all the furniture, including dishes in the kitchen and coal in the basement. We build a fire, cook a meal, and take a bath. In this particular place, there is a washing machine in the basement and that comes in handy for laundry. As we pass through towns and cities, there are white flags hanging from the windows. Germany is really getting a taste of what She dished out to other countries. She will be a long time recovering from this.”
Claude Motley’s record from the Official Roster of South Carolina Servicemen and Servicewomen in World War II documents his brief participation in World War II. What it does not do is capture the details of this short but eventful period in Claude’s life on Earth. The record notes that he was born in Blaney (now Elgin), South Carolina on 1 November 1922. He still lived near Blaney when he entered active duty in the Army on 8 August 1944. He served overseas in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater from 8 January 1945 until 12 June 1945. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with service stars for the Rhineland Campaign and the Central Europe Campaign, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged as a corporal from Company M, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division on 13 February 1946.
And now, the rest of the story: Claude enlisted in the Army on August 8th, 1944. Claude went to basic training at Camp Blanding near Starke, Florida and arrived on August 18th. He trained as a member of a heavy weapons company and trained on heavy infantry weapons, the heavy machine gun, the 81 millimeter mortar, the rifle, the carbine, the pistol, and grenades. Claude completed his training and moved to Fort Meade, Maryland to await transportation to Europe in early January of 1945. In Europe on January 8th, he was assigned to Company M, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division. He was assigned to a machine gun platoon. When he joined the 30th Division, they were engaged in the final days of the Battle of the Bulge. On January 13th, the 30th Division launched a counteroffensive and began their push east toward Germany. On February 23rd, the 30th Division crossed the Roer River. On March 24th, they crossed the Rhine River in Germany. On April 12th, the 30thDivision reached the Elbe River forty miles Southwest of Berlin in eastern Germany. On April 13th, Company M crossed the Elbe River near Grunewalde. The Germans mounted a counterattack and captured 22 members of Company M including Claude, his Company Commander, Captain Romulus Mann, and his platoon sergeant, Technical Sergeant Paul Schreck, as they took cover in the basement of a farm house. Claude was imprisoned in Stalag IIIA near Luckenwalde, Germany. Like other prisoners at the end of the war, Claude suffered from poor nutrition and care. Rumor in Stalag IIIA was that the Russians were about to liberate the prisoners. Claude managed to get a map of Germany and he and a friend, Wilton Outlaw, escaped on May 5th. Their plan was to reach a crossroads and to use the map to find their way west to American lines. The plan hit a snag when they reached the first crossroads, because the Russians had come through the area and had changed all the road signs to Russian, which was unintelligible to Privates Motley and Outlaw. They revised their plan, put the map away, and simply headed west. They were given a ride for part of the way on a wood burning truck by people they could not communicate with. Claude returned to the 119th Infantry. Victory in Europe was achieved on May 8th when Germany surrendered. On 12 June, the 30th shipped back to the United States aboard the RMS Queen Mary ocean liner. After a visit home, Claude was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington ,where he served as a driver until his discharge on February 13th, 1946.
Post war, Claude returned home and to logging and farming. He also taught agriculture in a veterans program for a couple of years. He raised a family, was active in his community and his church. He was truly one of America’s greatest generation.
—Submitted by his proud son-in-law, Nelson McLeod, Associate
by Julian Lee Gelwasser, 90 INFD, 358 INF REG, CO B
World War II started in 1939 when I was 13 years old. When Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec.7, 1941 I was in high school, age 15. Our home room teacher said it would be over in 6 weeks. Sure. Three years later in 1944 I turned 18, graduated and the draft board was waiting. Before that my classmates formed a Victory Corp. , bought “uniforms” and tried to prepare ourselves for service. There was an urgent need for trained riflemen in the army so I was inducted at Ft. Meade and took basic training at Camp Fannin, Tx. I quickly learned to use the M1 rifle, Mi carbine, BAR, 60mm mortar, 30cal MG, Bazooka, grenades and bayonet. We marched 25 miles with full packs in 100 degree weather. It was perfect training for the future snow and cold of the bulge. We should have trained in Alaska. In a matter of months I was on a troopship that landed in Marseilles, France. The bulge started Dec.16th and I was sent north as a needed replacement to the 358th of the 90th INFD. I became a platoon runner for LT. Julius Hebert. He and his non-coms were a wonderful group of men. My teenage mind was still active when Lt. Hebert let me carry his Thompson SMG. Wow, a Tommygun just like the ones carried by G-Men! I also carried his handy talkie radio.
There was much slogging through snow and cold. Food came in small K ration boxes. We were lucky to replace our boots with waterproof shoe pacs.
I was soon introduced to the nearness of death and I began to wonder if I would ever see my 19th birthday. At one time shots were zinging overhead. Lying prone next to a soldier, I poked him to get his attention. I got no response and realized he was dead. Another time, we were working our way through a wooded area in a fire fight when I was blocked by a smoking Jeep. The driver was lying on the hood bare footed. The Germans had taken his boots to replace their own.
After weeks of this we were near Wiltz, Luxembourg pushing the Germans out of a large farm house. To get out of the snow and cold we entered the barn. Big mistake. The Germans had zeroed it in and dropped a mortar shell on top of us. A large piece hit me in the left leg and another one of our men in the platoon was hit in the arm. We both started shouting, “MEDIC!” (I had a compound comminuted fracture and went into shock.)
I was soon covered with a blanket and put on a litter which went onto the fender of a Jeep. First stop was an aid station in ArIon, Belgium. I just missed an amputation. Next I was sent to a hospital in Paris where a Red Cross lady wrote a letter to my parents. This followed with a cross channel boat trip to England on the St. Olaf. At a hospital in Cheltenham I was put in traction for over a month, after which I returned to the US via a C54 hospital plane by way of the Azores, Newfoundland and Mitchel Field, LI. Months of rehab followed in Virginia until I could walk again.
I thought the medical treatment was very good, for those times. I was one of the first to get penicillin in the field.
Sad note: I had written Lt. Hebert a letter and it came back marked “DECEASED.” Nice man — I still think of him.
I received my Honorable Discharge just as the war ended in 1945. The GI Bill was in effect, so I received a college education.
There is an interesting side note to my story. Some 14 years after the war ended, I was 33 and had risen to a mid-level position in the defense industry. I became involved with a major sub-contractor whose chairman of the board was Five Star General Omar Bradley. So former PFC me had a friendly chat in his office with the general. I invited him down to the Cape in Florida to witness a test firing of a prototype missile, after which he sent me a very nice thank you note [shown below] which I have kept all these years.
In retrospect, we 18-year-olds were very patriotic. We loved our country and were ready to fight for it, in the face of fanatical German Nazis who were terrorizing so many people. We did what we had to do to end their threat and end the war.
Hard to believe. Those of us still around are in our 90’s.
VBOB member Richard Brookins, 28th Infantry Division, whose 1944 appearance as St. Nicolas in a Luxembourg town has been commemorated there for 70 years, is featured in a book and documentary, “American St. Nick.” And on July 7, 2016, Brookins was presented with the Luxembourg Military Medal, Luxembourg’s highest military honor, by the Consul General of the Luxembourg Consul in New York at a small ceremony in Rochester.
“American St. Nick” tells the remarkable TRUE story of a handful of American soldiers who during the chaos of war, help bring Christmas back a small Luxembourg town, and unknowingly create a holiday tradition that continues to this very day!