VBOB_News

South Carolina Chapter

South Carolina Chapter members Chris Carawan (90, left) and Gerald White (turning 90 in May, right) help Joe Watson celebrate his 93rd birthday at The Nut House, Joe’s pecan store in Ridge Spring, South Carolina on 9 April.  Joe served as a mortar platoon officer in the 75th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge.  He was recognized for participation in the Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe Campaigns.  Joe began his pecan business after returning home from World War II and now grows and sells pecans, pastries, and related items from The Nut House, a renovated service station in the heart of Ridge Spring.

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Submitted by Nelson McLeod, President

MURPHY’S 12 BASIC LAWS OF COMBAT

  1. Incoming always has the right of way.
  2. Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you.
  3. If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush.
  4. The important things are always simple,
  5. The simple things are always hard.
  6. The easy way is always mined.
  7. If you’re short of everything except the enemy, you’re in combat.
  8. When you secure an area, don’t forget to tell the enemy.
  9. Tracers work both ways.
  10. If the enemy’s in range, so are you!
  11. Professional soldiers are very predictable. Unfortunately, the world is full of                  amateurs.
  12. When in doubt, empty the magazine!Sent in by MICHAEL A. DENEEN, 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION, 325TH GLIDER INFANTRY REGIMENT, COMPANY A
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The Battle of the Bulge: One Small Corner, by John Fague, 11 ARMDD, 21 AIB

This is an excerpt from Fague’s book of the same title, published by The Shippensburg Historical Society, 2008.

The plan was for us to attack the hill in front of us. The battalion moved out from the road in basic training fashion, leaps and bounds and rushes, everything according to the book. We charged across the open ground and up the hill until we were ordered to stop. And now the officers decided that we were attacking the wrong hill! The Krauts were not up there. Somebody had made a miscalculation. I was told later that the tank commander yelled to battalion commander, Lt. Col. Hoffman, and asked him if he felt qualified to lead his men. His reply was, “I guess not.”

Later I understood that Col. Hoffman accidentally let the tank hatch drop on his shoulder and he had to be evacuated. That took care of that problem. Col. Hoffman was succeeded by Major Tansey, a dashing West Point officer. I remember him walking around with his 45-caliber pistol strapped to his waist, screaming orders in his high-pitched voice, walking where the fighting was the thickest.

Since we had blundered in attacking the wrong hill, Major Tansey and Capt. Fabrick led our company along a railroad track around the hill. We walked down the railroad tracks in a column of two for several hundred yards and then cut cross-country up over the hill. I noticed several knocked out American tanks on the hill, but nothing more. Although I didn’t know it then, we were heading toward the town of Chenogne, Belgium, which I presume was our original objective. This town was to witness the bloodiest fighting of our campaign in Belgium. Our company came across the hill in scattered formation, the first platoon leading the way. I remember wading through snowdrifts and crawling under several barbed wire fences. As I came over the top of that open hill, I little suspected the trap into which we were to be caught. Several times, shells burst in the pine trees 150 yard to my left and some shrapnel hit the snow around me. I couldn’t figure out then if that was close support from our artillery or enemy fire. I guess it was the Jerries because they had spotted every move we made.

Suddenly I had an experience of horror. Again I got that sudden sickening in my stomach. There in front of me were two-man foxholes. I could make out the forms of American boys, C.I.’s slumped over in a sitting position, dead. The snow had drifted over their bodies so I could hardly distinguish their features. I then realized there was something wrong with this place. Someone yelled that the 9th Armored Division had been driven out of here a few days before.

As we walked along, Capt. Fabrick yelled for someone to fire a few rounds into a haystack in front of us. Someone fired a few rounds, and this turned out to be very fortunate. The Jerries figured we had spotted them and they opened up with their machine gun. The sound of that gun I will never forget. The German machine gun has a much faster rate of fire than our gun and so they are easily distinguished. The sound of that gun echoed across the snow and everything in me seemed to stop. There were six of us in the first rank as we passed over the crest of the hill. We could see the town of Chenogne 300 yards in front of us. All of us instinctively dove for cover in the snow. I looked for a hole to crawl into, but there was none.

The first burst of gunfire had killed two men and wounded three, leaving me the lucky one. As I raised my head to look around, I saw boys to the left kicking and writhing in the snow. I knew they were hit and I wanted to get to them but I couldn’t. I knew approximately who they were, although I could not see their faces. Sgt. Carl E. Petersen from Oregon and William Kidney from Toledo, Ohio were dead. Bill Bassert and Charles Hocker from Philadelphia were badly wounded. Johnny Kale, who was lying near me, began to whine in pain. He yelled to me that he was hit. I crawled on my stomach through the snow to him. I found a bullet had hit him in the calf of the leg but it wasn’t bleeding badly. It looked like a clean wound. I took the Carlisle bandage from his belt and bandaged his wound. I gave him his sulfa tablets to prevent infection, but the water to take the pills with was frozen in his canteen. I told him to eat snow with the pills. Remembering my basic training, I took the clips of rifle ammunition from his belt and told him to crawl to the rear. As soon as Kale was gone, my attention was again drawn to that Jerry machine gun. It was still spitting out death across the snow. I knew I had to get into a hole somewhere or that gun would get me. I spotted a hole 20 yards down the hill and made a run for it. It was filled with snow, but I flopped in.

My protection was just a shallow slit trench. Every time I heard that machine gun rip off a burst, I tried to draw my buttocks more into the hole or pull in a leg. At this time I experienced the loneliest and most desolate feeling I had ever gone through. I looked back and could see none of the rest of the platoon behind me. The few boys on my right had either been killed, or were lying face down and very still. On my left and in front there was nothing but Krauts. A few yards to my right lay a dead German. He must have been killed the day before, as he was frozen stiff.

The idea came into my head that maybe the company would withdraw and leave me there. I thought to myself, “Well Fague, it looks like the end is very near.” My morale was at the lowest it had ever reached.

I had a weapon in my hand and I was determined to use it whatever happened. I saw some activity in the house ahead, Krauts running around. I opened up with my rifle. I fired one shot and my rifle jammed. While I had been giving Kale first aid, I dragged my rifle through the snow and got snow and dirt in the receiver. I had trouble drawing back the bolt, but I could still operate my rifle one round at a time. I doubt if I hit anything but it made me feel good to be shooting and doing something.

My isolated little battlefield soon came to life. I heard machine gun fire coming from my rear, and it was a wonderful sound. I saw those beautiful red tracer bullets from our guns arch across the snow into the Jerry position in front of me. I heard our tanks coming from the rear and I knew I was no longer alone. What a wonderful feeling the sight of our tanks gave me! I felt like jumping up and charging the enemy position alone. I was so excited I was no longer afraid. Behind me I heard voices yelling, and commands. I saw buddies from my platoon moving over the bodies of those who had just been killed. They were moving in leaps and bounds from bushes to snowdrifts. When they came abreast of me, I went along with them. I rushed to an abandoned German tank 75 yards in front of me and took cover behind it.

At the tank I was soon joined by Frank H. Holquist. He brought his machine gun and set up for business. The next arrivals were Robert A. Fordyce, from Erie, Pennsylvania, and Paul L. Gentile. They were carrying ammunition for the machine gun. The sergeants soon joined us. Holquist now gave us a tune on his machine gun. He was keeping the Krauts busy, who were dug in around the house 50 yards in front of us. I decided this was the time to take my rifle apart and get the snow out of it.

From left to right: S/Sgt John Fague, PFC Donald E. White, PFC Dock E. Deakle, and driver of the “BAT,” T/5 Orvin P. Rasnic
From left to right: S/Sgt John Fague, PFC Donald E. White, PFC Dock E. Deakle, and driver of the “BAT,” T/5 Orvin P. Rasnic

 

VBOB_News

SE FL CHAPTER #62 DONATES TO WELCOME KITS

The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center has created a program to create “welcome kits” for returning US Troops. The kits contain toiletry articles and the program is funded by donations. Pictured is George Fisher, President of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Southeast Florida Chapter, presenting a donation on behalf of the chapter to Charlene Szabo, director of the Medical Center.

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QUILTS OF VALOR, by Tom Burgess, 87th INFD, 345th INF REG

Founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, mother of an Army soldier deployed to Iraq who wanted her son and others welcomed home with love and gratitude, Quilts of Valor has spread nationwide. As of the first of 2016, nearly 200,000 Quilts of Valor have been presented to veterans. From her sewing room in Seaford, Delaware, Catherine’s idea of linking quilt top makers with machine quilters has achieved her goal of awarding healing quilts to returning service men and women touched by war.

On February 3, 2016, quilts were presented to about twenty-five veterans in North Carolina by the local Group in Cabarrus County. Group is the designated term for local area quilters who make the quilts and arrange the presentation programs. Quilts are all made by local volunteer groups and are sewn with materials provided at no cost by the QOV Foundation now headquartered in Lilburn, Georgia.

The Veterans honored included myself and only one other WW II veteran, who was a 97-year-old former WAC whose service assignment was de-coding of messages! Other veterans there served from Korea to Afghanistan. The Certificate presented with the Quilt reads:

On behalf of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, In recognition of your service and sacrifice for
This nation it is a privilege to serve Honor and comfort upon you through The award of a Quilt of Valor Though we may never know the depth of your sacrifice to Protect and defend The United States of America, as a gesture Of gratitude from a grateful nation We award this Quilt to Valor to Thomas L. Burgess

Tom Burgess
Tom Burgess

Each Quilt of Honor is an individual work of art and no two are alike. Before the presentation program began, each veteran was asked to pick the quilt we wanted to receive from a large display. When presented, the quilt was wrapped around our shoulders with the expressed hope that it would give us a warm feeling of appreciation from the QOV Foundation and the volunteer who made the quilt.

Go to www.QOVF.org/group to locate and contact the nearest group to learn of plans for future presentations and provide names of WW II veterans for award consideration. Consider donating at www.QOVF.org/donate

 

 

 

 

 

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Warriors Turned Worriers, by Muriel Phillips Engelman, 16th General Hospital

On Dec. 16, 1944, German General von Rundstedt made his famous counterattack into Belgium, starting the Battle of the Bulge, which was to be the biggest, bloodiest and most decisive battle of World War II.

Muriel Engelman
Muriel Engelman

Our tent hospital, located on the outskirts of Liege, was one of the closest hospitals to the fighting lines, and the destination for the German army to reach in order to cross the Meuse River there and head for the Port of Antwerp, where they could cut off all Allied supplies.

The week before Christmas, a sudden heavy dense fog fell over all of Belgium, creating an eerie, gray silent landscape. The only sounds we could hear were the muffled sounds of buzz bombs dropping as they flew over every twelve to fifteen minutes, twenty-four hours a day, each one carrying 2000 Ibs. of explosives. Our hospital had already suffered two hits and was to soon receive a third, creating casualties among patients and hospital staff. This fog was so thick we couldn’t see five feet in front of us, but the German tanks and infantry were able to move forward on the ground, and our planes couldn’t get off the ground to bomb them.

Two days before Christmas, the Germans were ten miles from Liege and German paratroopers had already been dropped into the city. Many of the American hospitals in the area had already evacuated to France or Luxembourg, and we felt like sitting ducks, hoping and waiting for orders to evacuate that never came. Instead, we nurses were ordered to pack our musette bags with the warmest clothing we had and any first aid supplies, in the event we were captured by the Germans, and to be prepared to move out with ten minutes notice.

Of course we were scared. I was a little more so than the other nurses, because I had an “H” for Hebrew on my dog tags, the very ones Hitler wanted to annihilate. Our patients were furious that American women were so far up front. When we did get orders to evacuate our sickest bed patients to the rear, as we loaded them into trucks and ambulances, they begged us to change places with them.

One of my patients who was so concerned about my possible capture by the Germans constructed a blackjack for me to carry with me at all times, and believe me, I did. You can see it in the enclosed photo, in my right hand. This was a ten-inch length of hosing, stuffed with lead sinkers and suspended from my wrist by a leather thong. His instructions were as follows: “If a Kraut gets near you, take this blackjack, slam it across his face and aim for the eyes.”

Another patient gave me a spring-blade knife, which you can see outlined in my left pocket, and his directions were: “If a Kraut approaches, take this knife blade, plunge it into his belly and then run like hell.”

On Christmas Eve, the fog that had hung over all of Belgium for the past week had dissipated, and a full moon arose, lighting the sky with an almost daytime light. A lone German plane flew over our hospital tents and the enlisted men’s tents that night, dropping anti-personnel bombs and strafing the tents, killing and wounding scores of patients and hospital personnel. Our planes were out in full force the following morning and soon outnumbered the German planes.

No, I never had to use my “weapons of protection,” though I kept them in my possession for years, mementos of our wonderful, caring G.I. Joes.

 

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His whittling skills helped save radiator

Russell Hathaway
Russell Hathaway

Russell Hathaway from Ada, Ohio, spent 15 months in European Theatre and fought in The Battle of the Bulge. Russell went across the English Channel in LST (flat open barge) to Normandy November 1, 1944. Back home in Ohio, a son ( Larry) was born to Russell and his wife Mable November 5, 1944.

Russell was a Private First Class with the “Railsplitters”—Anti Tank Company, 3rd Platoon, 335 Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division. He had seen a lot of destruction from the war, but had not been in combat until they got orders December 24, 1944 to “get out the best way you can.” His unit had been held up in Bastogne, Belgium. They had been staying in a basement of a deserted house with their truck backed into the garage, out behind the house. He had one trip to the garage and no time to take his duffle bag. The truck radiator had two holes from shrapnel. Russell whittled wood plugs to fill the holes. Two men rode on the front bumper to keep filling the radiator with water. They had gotten the order at 4p.m., and at 5p.m. six men plus the driver drove the truck out of the garage (pulling a 57 millimeter anti-tank gun like a trailer) while under fire from the enemy. A German tank (60 ton) had made deep tracks. This was Russell’s first time in a combat situation.

EPSON MFP image
EPSON MFP image

The men got out of the truck and into the tracks. Russell was laying in the track, head to head with Mac McQuin. Mac was shot in the head with a 30 caliber machine gun. Russell and other soldiers got him to back to the command post. They never heard anything more about Mac. They followed half-track tracks until until dark, using black-out lights to travel after dark. Lt. Kelso got injured in leg (his driver was killed). Kelso ended up on Russell’s truck.

This battle continued until January 31, 1945 and Russell’s unit was there until the end. The unit crossed the Rhine for the final offense in Germany, ending up in Heidelberg, with temporary headquarters.

While waiting to return to the U.S., Russell competed in sharpshooting contests and qualified for several medals. On November 23, 1945, Russell headed for home from France on a small victory ship. A terrific storm was on them for three days after leaving the Mediterranean Sea and entering the Atlantic Ocean. The ship tipped 37 degrees during those days. (They capsize at 45 degrees). Most of the men were sick, but Russell was not. Russell received Honorable Discharge December 8, 1945.

Russell had never talked much about his wartime experiences until he acquired and read the book: The 84th Infantry Division in the Battle of Germany from Nov. 1944-May 1945, by Lt. Theodore Draper. With the help of this book, Russell could track his unit at different locations and time periods, and this made it easier for him to share his own experiences.

Russell went on the Honor Flight from Columbus, Ohio to Washington, D.C. on April 21, 2007.

On December 12, 2011, Russell and his wife Mable celebrated 69 years of marriage, shortly before his death on December 25, 2011. He passed away in their Ohio home at the age of 92. He was surrounded by his family on that Christmas evening—67 years after spending his Christmas in The Battle of the Bulge.

—Submitted by Drena Hathaway Metzger, his daughter, and Mable Hathaway, his wife, Associate

75th Anniversary Commemoration, WWII

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Please help the Friends of the National World War II Memorial,  bring honor and recognition to our “Greatest Generation” by joining us at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC for special ceremonies and commemoration throughout the year.
http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org

2016 promises to be a historic year at the Memorial, as we prepare to kick-off a four-year 75th anniversary commemoration of World War II, beginning on December 7, 2016 and concluding on September 2, 2020.

2016 Calendar of Events

Sun., May 8 V-E Day (Mother’s Day) 11:00 a.m.
Tues., May 17 U.S. Army Blues 6:00 p.m.
Mon., May 30 Memorial Day 9:00 a.m.
Mon., June 6 D-Day Commemoration Wreath Laying 10:00 a.m.
Thurs.,Aug 25 U.S. Army Blues 6:00 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 2 V-J Day 11:00 a.m.
Fri., Nov.11 Veterans Day 9:00 a.m.
Tues., Dec. 6 4th Annual Haydn Williams WWII Memorial Legacy Lecture  TBD
Wed., Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Day ~ 75th Anniversary Commemoration 1:53 p.m.

To learn more about the WWII 75th Anniversary Commemoration, click here.

Read the calendar of events for 2017-2020

 

 

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Task Force Ezell by John H. Harris 4th Armored Div., 22d Armd FA Bn, Battery C

John H. Harris
John H. Harris

I was a part of Task Force Ezell. This TF was organized and ordered to proceed to Bastogne to render assistance to the 101st Abn Div as needed. The TF consisted of the following units of the 4th Armored Div:
CO A, 8th Tank Bn
Co C, 10th Armd Inf Bn
Battery C, 22d Armd Field Artillery Bn(My Btry)

All of TF Ezell’s action was done on the 20th Dec. 1944. We proceeded to Bastogne early morning on the 20th Dec 44 without meeting any enemy resistance. I believe we arrived about noon. After Capt Bert Ezell reported to officials in Bastogne, he received an order to return the TF to their battalions. A strange order indeed. We returned to our parent battalions without meeting any enemy resistance again. However, we did see large tank tracks across our road on the way back. This turned out to be the closing of the circle around Bastogne which the TF avoided. On 26 Dec 1944 elements of the 4th Armored Division broke the siege of Bastogne.

This tank is an M7 self-propelled 105mm Howitzer Artillery piece. (There are 6 of these in an Armored Field Artillery battery, or 18 to a battalion.)
This tank is an M7 self-propelled 105mm Howitzer Artillery piece. (There are 6 of these in an Armored Field Artillery battery, or 18 to a battalion.)
Our beloved commander, Major General John S.(Tiger Jack) Wood. We would go to hell and back for him, and we did!!!
Our beloved commander, Major General John S.(Tiger Jack) Wood. We would go to hell and back for him, and we did!!!

Harris4sm

 

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BUILDING BRIDGES by Fred Natzle, 148 ENGR CMBT BN, Co B

We built a Bailey bridge across the Rhine River before the battle … so Patton could get his tanks over there. On the day the Ludendorff bridge collapsed, ten days after its capture, the 148th Engineer Combat Battalion, with the assistance of a company of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion, began building a floating Bailey bridge at Remagen, downstream from the Ludendorff. The 148th started the bridge at 0730 hours on the 18th and completed it in 48 hours. It was the first American Bailey bridge across the Rhine River. The 148th Engineer Combat Battalion was assigned to the 1110th Engineer Combat Group.

American troops building a floating Bailey Bridge, similar to the one the 148th Engineer Combat Battalion built.
American troops building a floating Bailey Bridge, similar to the one the 148th Engineer Combat Battalion built.

 

VBOB_News

SC CHAPTER PARTICIPATES IN VALENTINES FOR VETERANS PROGRAM

Valentines_smGerald White gives students a first-hand history lesson about his experiences in World War II during the Valentines for Vets program at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, SC. The Valentines for Vets Program provides students with an opportunity to discuss history with veterans who served in the Armed Forces in all conflicts and time periods from World War II up to the present day. Other veterans participating included South Carolina Chapter members Vernon Brantley and David Hubbard and associate members Ed Lundeen and Nelson McLeod. As David Hubbard said “The students enjoyed it, the veterans enjoyed it, and we convinced them that we had a little to do with winning World War II.”

—Submitted by Nelson McLeod, President, South Carolina Chapter

VBOB_News

South Carolina Chapter #7 Meeting

SC_Chapter_Meet_smVeterans in attendance at the 19 March meeting of the South Carolina Chapter were Joe Watson, Leif Maseng, David Hubbard, Walter Hedges, Chris Carawan, Jim Hubble, Thomas Estridge, Gerald White, Tom Burgess, and Vernon Brantley. — Submitted by Nelson McLeod, President

VBOB_News

Hudson Valley Chapter #49 Holds December Luncheon

Hudson_Lunch_smAttendees at the Hudson Valley Chapter #49 December 16, 2015 luncheon included (1st Row, L to R): John Monahan, 731st field Artillery 3rd Army; William Butz, 6 Armored Division 3rd Army; Lilian Yonelly, Women Airforce Service Pilot; Robert Gusberti, Navy-Pacific; John Schillaci, 739th Field Artillery. (2nd Row, L to R): Matthew Swedick, Chapter President (Grandfather John Swedick, KIA 12/17/44 2nd Inf Div, 23rd Inf Rgmt); Edward Graffeo, 731 Field Artillery; Alan Atwell, 28th Division MP Platoon; William Leunig, 285th Engineer Combat Battalion; Col. Richard Goldenberg, Joint Force Headquarters, NY National Guard. — Submitted by Matthew J. Swedick, Presiden, Hudson Valley Chapter #49

 

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LETTERS TO A WAR BRIDE, by Tim McKay, Associate

Robert McKay
Robert McKay

In 1999, not long after my mother’s death, my brothers and I found a box of letters with a note on top in my mother’s handwriting: “Letters to a War Bride.” The box held a collection of nearly all the letters my father wrote to her during his 20 months in Europe during and after World War II. That discovery led to a quest to uncover his wartime history which would culminate in a book I published in 2015 called “Letters to a War Bride”. My father was Captain Robert James McKay Jr. and he was Battalion Surgeon for the 275th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 75th Infantry Division. They landed at Le Havre in early December, 1944, and soon were thrown into the Battle of the Bulge on the northern flank. Here is an excerpt, from Christmas week, 1944.

RJMJr., Fletch, Smitty, Plettenberg 1945
RJMJr., Fletch, Smitty, Plettenberg 1945

23 Dec 1944 . . . We are in a country village [Chardeneux] so small that there is not even a store. It makes the last one practically seem like a city. I can’t say I mind though, because it just makes it that much less a probable target. The Medical Detachment is set up in a small barn. We have a central part with a clear floor about thirty by fourteen feet. On one side is straw stacked from the floor up with several levels on which the men can sleep. On the other side we are separated by an eighteen-inch stone and brick wall, which separates us from the stable where the cows are. Over the cows is a hayloft, which is reached by a ladder from our central part of the barn. We have rather a dim electric light (twenty five watt bulb), but our Coleman lantern gives off a pretty good light. We have our trailer with us, containing most of our supplies. Fletcher and Mirando sleep on the truck some distance away.

The old Belgian whose barn we are using is friendly and hospitable as anything. Unfortunately he only possesses a three-room house (all small) or we could have a real inside dispensary. However, the boys can go in and warm up from time to time.

Chardeneux remains a small village to this day. I spent a magical month in 2014 tracing the places and people my father encountered 69 years earlier. When I visited Chardeneux, it was clear that the whole village knows well the story of Christmas 1944, when every building in town housed soldiers of the 275th.

Christmas Eve!

Fletcher at the wheel, Sgt Hanna behind him, McKay smiling, Wilbur standing
Fletcher at the wheel, Sgt Hanna behind him, McKay smiling, Wilbur standing

It is a beautiful, clear, cold day. We have been watching the U.S. Army Air Force’s Christmas present to the German People go over and believe me, no one is unhappy about it. When you get over here and undergo the discomfort and unpleasantness of what this war has forced upon us and think of how different it is at home, you really boil. You feel that truly nothing is too bad to wish on the people who have wished this on us. I’m sure that the cold and discomfort of a winter campaign are going to make the fighting just that much more vicious. From our standpoint it is a good thing, because we have been, if anything, too easy on them.

The family whose barn we are using have invited us in to share their warm front room with them. It is certainly appreciated, because it does give us a chance to get really warm now and then. The family is farmers. There are the father, mother, and eighteen year old daughter. They are very nice, simple, straightforward, hardworking people, who are scared stiff of the war and the Germans. I can’t say that I blame them. . . .

Christmas Day, 1944

Dearest Liz: Well, Christmas Day turned out to be another beautiful clear day. Your husband, contrarily, has been in a terrible humor all day. I suspect that it’s because he is upset and fed up that he is not with you. Also there is a certain amount of nervous strain connected with this war business. . . .

The war is funny. The destruction of war is as remarkable in its absence as in its presence. The impression we have at home of a countryside completely laid waste is not true at all. There is always a great deal more time and space where it is safe than there is where it is not. . . .

Our Belgian farmer continues to be very cooperative and hospitable. Most of us are sleeping on the floor of his two small front rooms. . . . All the boys are impressed with how hard the daughter, Angéle, works.

The farmer and his wife and other old people in the town have never seen a typewriter and are now busy watching Hanna type out a requisition on it. . . .

I had hoped to meet Angéle on my visit. A Belgian friend helped me search, found the family, and the two of us paid them a visit on a lovely April evening. Unfortunately, Angéle died in 2012, but her son Marc Breda was there, living in the house where my father and his comrades once stayed. The barn my father described has been converted into a community café, but retains the original structure. Marc called Suzanne, a longtime friend of his mother, who joined us at the barn/café. Suzanne was only eight at Christmas in 1944. She remembers the chocolate the soldiers gave the children, which was momentous because they had not seen chocolate since the Germans invaded in May of 1940. And she remembers the room in her house where no civilians were allowed, which must have served as battalion headquarters that week. Small children at the time, Suzanne and a friend were able to sneak a peek and saw the walls lined with maps.

Marc disappeared into the house and emerged with a framed photo of his mother as a young woman, and another of her in later years tending sheep. As I read them the description my father had written of Angéle, Marc and Suzanne confirmed her sunny disposition, which she retained all her life. I was thrilled to make this connection to my father, sitting in the barn/café and easily able to picture it as it was, with stacks of hay filling one end and cows just on the other side of the wall.

26 December, 1944 . . . It is now nine o’clock and I have been going continuously since about seven thirty this morning. I organized an SOP (standard operating procedure). . . . Afterward I had sick call. Then went up to the front lines to see how the aid men were doing in the companies. . . . Getting back here was like getting completely out of the war. We really have it made where we are. . . .

The whole aid station gang has been watching Angéle all evening. She is spinning wool yarn with which she knits herself socks and sweaters. She has also knitted herself a dress!

A few days later, the 275th departed Chardeneux and moved to La Forge, close to the front line between Grandmenil and Hotton. On the 28th, the battalion suffered its first casualties, three men who were killed by a German machine gun while laying mines. The 275th and the rest of the 75th Division fought their way east from Grandmenil to Vielsalm and then on to Commanster.

Through my father’s letters, his memories, and my own research, I was able to trace his activities throughout the 20 months he was in Europe. I’d love to hear from anyone connected with the 75th Division, particularly the 275th Engineer Combat Battalion. I’m sure you’d be interested in “Letters to a War Bride”, available on Amazon and elsewhere. Check it out at www.letterstoawarbride.com

 

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Service a la mode, by Bernard Silverman, 4th AD, 35th Tank Bn, Co C

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman

“Your mission is to enter this territory, which may be infested with the enemy, and see that the tanks get their gas, ammo, rations and water. It is imperative that they get it tonight, because a counterattack is expected tomorrow morning.” And with these few words, the Colonel had dismissed me, and I was on the way, with four trucks, into the blackness of a sporadically-lit sky, filled with the blasting roars and unknown terrors that accompany the front line.

Service Company again would brave the dangers, which even Armored Vehicles would hesitate to encounter. Two and a half ton GMC trucks laden with precious supplies for the tankers were driven by unsung heroes, and their only comfort was an assistant who carried a machine gun, and was later seared to death.

Traveling on a dirt road under blackout conditions; training eyes on the vehicle in front; watching every spot of moving brush; and depending on the leader, who is going into territory he has never seen before in his life. A map was the only guide, but it was too dark to see it, and I could not chance showing a flicker of light. Depending on memory, not only as to where the roads were, and which turn to take, but also where the tanks were located according to the last report.

A Heinie burp gun goes off. It sounds close. Yes, darn close. If anything else can be heard, it’s the pulling back of belts as each man becomes more alert and strains his eyes even more.

“Halt!” A figure with drawn rifle jumps out into the center of the road. Next, came a screaming of brakes, and the cursing of the drivers. Thank God, it’s a doughboy. “Give the password”, ask him if he has seen any tanks. The directions he gives are not the same we had received. But they could have moved—they’re always moving.

I’ll have to chance it. Can’t afford to take a cumbersome truck through unexplored fields. “Joe, come with me. We’ll take a recon on foot.”

Stumbling along in the blackness, it seems like miles. Is that the outline of a tank? Maybe it’s just a bush. Always seems like one in this damn darkness. “Sure, Joe, that’s a 76mm sticking out. Better holler out, or they’ll mow us down.”

“Baker Company?” “Who goes?” comes the reply. We answer.

“Goddamn, you guys, always coming around in the middle of the night!” We know he doesn’t mean half the profanity that’s thrown our way—it’s the strain. Anyway, we are so happy to have found him.