Sharpening A Spearhead . . .
Sharpening A Spearhead . . .
Battle of the Bulge was yet an open issue. Hitler's Wehrmacht retained a mighty punch, and the threat of
von Rundstedt's desperate counter-thrusts still loomed. Here, in
Belgium, the Allied armies on the Western Front were recovering from their first major reverse. In the icy grip of winter, they were fighting off an attempt by the enemy to prolong the war for months.
THE communications crews began to have their first real taste of what their work was cut out to be during the endless days and nights to follow: go out as a section of the advance party . . . set up the new switchboard . . . then begin weaving the strands of their so vital but so fragile spider's web from regiment to battalion and back . . . then a twenty-four-hour watch for breaks in the line . . . and if one came, out again to mend it, sometimes as many as eight or nine times from sun-up to sun-up . . . then, when everything was quiet and copacetic and you thought you could sit back . . . well, that was always the wrong thing to do because that was always the
SOP time for the order, "Moving out!" . . . and the whole song and dance to go through again . . . rear CP . . . new CP . . . things were never truly quiet with these lads . . . life never could be completely simple! Here was where their motto first began to be implemented, the motto which was to carry them all through combat, regimental and battalion commo crews alike: Whether it be against the enemy, nature or any other known obstacle communications
will be in and maintained!
THE column began to move at 2200. An advance party had left some six hours earlier under the command of Lt. Col. Emery and, presumably, was already at its destination. Snow had fallen and the temperature was way down. Windshields developed stubborn glazings of ice and frost inside and out. For all practical purposes visibility was nil. The march order called for blackout with sixty-yard intervals and a ten mile-per-hour speed. Under the conditions this was a human impossibility and for long hours the convoy stretched and constricted like a grotesque, animated accordion. Maintenance trucks at the tail divided their time between dragging vehicles out of ditches or over the rough spots, ministering to flats and other mechanical ailments, and cursing and swearing. But little by little, the column crept and crawled along to destination, without benefit of the moon or any other guide than the sometimes seen and sometimes lost glow of a dim, red tail-light on the vehicle ahead.
The entire convoy did not all arrive, as planned, at the same time.
But by 1900, 26 January, the regimental command post had been established in
Boudeler, a still intact but deserted farm village in the
eastern bulge of Luxembourg formed by the
Sauer River. The following entries had been made in the regimental
journal: "0130, 25 January,
CT 304 cleared old area;" "1600, 25
January, 1st battalion in defensive
positions in new sector with contact with units on its right and its
left." "2320, 25 January, 2nd battalion in defensive positions in new sector with contact with units on its right and its
"Front and Center"
THE 1st battalion went into the line at
Dickweiler with the 2nd to its left flank at
Osweiler, the 3rd battalion being in reserve at
Berbourg. To the left flank of the entire regimental sector was the 417th Regiment of the 76th Division, facing the town of
Echternach and the probable site of the river crossing which was the inevitable concomitant at this stage of the operations. To the north of these two towns was a two thousand yard stretch of woods and swamp. On the southern fringe of this area was a group of rude log shelters (it was actually christened
Log City!) which had come to the troops as a heritage from the 324th and--it is to be suspected--had come to them in turn as an unwilling bequest from the hurriedly departing
Germans. And on the northern fringe of these
woods, nearest to the river, went the
fox-holes, the dug-outs and the camouflage. All of the initial exploration of this territory and the setting up of the positions were done under cover of
darkness. Now, all that was left was to sit back and wait for the dawn to break so that the men might see what they had come some forty-five hundred miles to see--the German foe firmly entrenched in his far-famed and wideflung
Siegfried Line [Westwall -
U.Koch], the bastion which these raw troops were supposed to storm and reduce as the prelude to final
Mail - R.S.V.P.
DICKWEILER and Osweiler, however, were strictly deserted, with the exception, of the battalions and the German artillery. One reads in the journal, "CO 3rd Bn. reports receiving much fire from Hinkel. Requests to put fire on them." Both of these towns had already felt the devastating effects of artillery and the end for them was not yet. The "mail" continued to come in regularly. The comfort in this was that the "mail" went out with proportionately greater regularity. The 302nd Field Artillery had set up its "light housekeeping" in and around the little hamlet of Geyershof, about five kilometers to the southwest of Osweiler and their daily routine was begun and executed with such regularity that watches were set and checked by their salvos. CT 304's own well beloved Cannon Company, established slightly to the rear of the positions at Dickweiler and Osweiler, fired mission after mission upon request of their own forward observers and more and more frequently upon company and battalion request as well. Their boast is well worth noting at this point, that they were the first of the CT 304 to fire a round into Germany proper. And overhead, flying in a continuous zig-zag orbit, were the omnipresent Piper Cubs out of division. They could not be called merely a comfort to have around; they were far more than that. It was the same as knowing that there was a sleepless watch-dog roaming round and round outside one's house. And more and more the men began to be conscious of another safeguard provided for, them by these planes. Whenever they were overhead the enemy artillery invariable lessened--for obvious reasons--the chance of being observed from aloft was too great. Their only chance of remaining half-way concealed, while the Piper Cubs were over them and watching, was for the gun emplacements to withhold their fire.
Anti-Tank Company went about its appointed task, reconnoitering the regimental sector for vulnerable spots through which enemy mechanized attacks might come. The muzzles of company and battalion 57s pointed down narrow draws and covered open fields and roads, with gun crews on a twenty-four-hour alert for enemy tanks and
A Spearhead . . . (continued)
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